eTOD Briefs

Segregation and Displacement Can Make eTOD a Challenging Prospect

CNT and LUCHA discuss how the Chicago region’s legacy of segregation continues to affect attitudes toward affordable housing and how online analytics can help drive a dialog to overcome these issues.

In a webcasted community workshop on February 25th, 2019, CNT’s Drew Williams-Clark and Peter Haas, joined by guest Juan Carlos Linares, Executive Director of LUCHA, discussed how the Chicago region’s legacy of segregation continues to affect attitudes toward housing affordability. In short, race and housing are still deeply intertwined and, when combined with a NIMBY (not in my backyard) attitude, continue to hold people of color back from attaining fair and affordable housing.  

The Fair Housing Act was created in response to the unjust and racially motivated treatment of people of color, particularly African Americans, that resulted in the denial of access into white neighborhoods and/or the mere possibility of an affordable home loan. What became known as redlining had generational effects of disinvestment in communities that can still be seen today. The Fair Housing Act made it illegal to be denied housing based on your race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status, or national origin. Chicago, which was profoundly impacted by redlining, created the Chicago Fair Housing Ordinance. The ordinance takes the Fair Housing Act a step further by also including protections for ancestry, age (over the age of 40), sexual orientation, gender identity, military discharge status, and source of income. However, the deep roots of redlining can still be seen in the number one complaint of housing discrimination—source of income, i.e. Section 8 housing.  

At the community workshop, Juan Carlos Linares described the mission of LUCHA, a non-profit organization that advances housing as a human right, especially in Chicago’s West Town, Humboldt Park, and Logan Square communities, and explained that although Chicago is diverse, it is not integrated. Linares pointed to research by Maria Krysan, Professor of Sociology at University of Illinois Chicago, that demonstrates how we continue to segregate ourselves when choosing which neighborhoods to live in; the legacy of segregation and unfair housing is alive and well. Linares explained that this division not only has social consequences, but economic ones as well. The Cost of Segregation, published by the Metropolitan Planning Council in partnership with the Urban Institute, concluded that a more integrated Chicago in 2010 would have led to fewer homicides, less income disparity by race, and higher property values overall by 2016. 

Linares also discussed the risk of displacing current residents when development happens without community engagement or input, pointing to Humboldt Park and the 606 Trail as an example. The 606 project, which transformed a stretch of old rail line into an elevated nature trail, resulted in a severe spike in property values in the western section of the trail, which led to increased property taxes and displacement. Longtime residents of Humboldt Park suddenly unable to pay their rent or property taxes were forced to reckon with the prospect of having to move. While that may appear as growth, Linares explained that in this situation, the city actually loses families who are forced to move to the suburbs in search of more affordable housing, even if that housing comes with higher transportation costs.  

In this context, production of more affordable housing, particularly in areas with good transit access, is critical. There is currently more demand than supply: LUCHA itself at any given point has over 300 people on a waiting list for housing developments. The wait is typically anywhere from six months to two years to get into one of their five buildings.  

A shared goal of LUCHA and CNT is to educate the public, developers, and decision makers on the importance of affordable housing in equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD), or development that takes advantage of transit assets while avoiding displacement. Maintaining affordable housing in the community can help alleviate the stress and anxiety that residents feel as they struggle to pay bills or fear that they will have to uproot their families from the community they have always known. LUCHA and CNT, among many other allied organizations, promote affordable housing production through both policy change and education. 

On the policy side, in 2017, LUCHA pushed for an ordinance to help prevent displacement of residents. Although that ordinance was not adopted, Mayor Emanuel enhanced the Chicago Affordable Requirement Ordinance (ARO) in 2015, requiring new residential developments to make a certain percentage of their units affordable to low- or moderate-income residents if they receive any city financial assistance or are built on city-owned land. An example of an Inclusionary Zoning Set-Aside ordinance, the ARO links the production of affordable housing to the production of market-rate housing.  

A better understanding of the benefits of affordable housing is also a necessary part of the solution. NIMBYism, a major barrier to affordable housing development, encompasses a variety of other ugly “isms,” but is typically expressed as fears of increased traffic congestion, reduced access to parking, overcrowding in public schools, and erosion of retail quality. The reality is that affordable housing increases the spending power in a neighborhood, which can help support grocery stores, pharmacies, and other community needs. Nearby residents often don’t realize this positive benefit, and developers don’t always communicate it.  

That’s where the Center for Neighborhood Technology steps in. We help communities accelerate eTOD to tackle some of the biggest issues of our day: community affordability, changing transportation needs, equal access to livable communities, and climate change. The eTOD Social Impact Calculator helps affordable housing developers estimate the boost to local retail based on the combined incomes of a proposed building’s residents. While segregation and displacement create barriers to eTOD, the right combination of affordable development, community engagement, and online analytics can take steps to overcoming them. 

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