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City Showcases Kind-of-Affordable Housing

By Olivia Leigh in Arts & Entertainment on Oct 12, 2006 7:00PM

As is the case in most major cities, providing and maintaining access to affordable housing is one of the most pressing issues in Chicago. A few weeks ago, many of you said that you were paying close to 30 percent of your salary toward housing, and chances are you have jobs that pay significantly more than a sizable portion of Chicago residents.

In the midst of criticism about the increase in monthly Chicago homeownership costs rising 21.7 percent between 2000 and 2005, on Saturday, the city held a “Cavalcade of Homes,” a tour of 40 developments across the city aimed to showcase the city’s affordable housing options and provide an idea of what a mixed-income metro area should look like.


All of the developments featured in the tour received some financial assistance from city government, in the form of land, tax increment financing districting or federal income tax credits. In return for receiving these benefits, housing developers were required to create units at below-market value, or reserve a portion for low- or middle-income buyers.

The goal here, according to John G. Markowski, commissioner of the city's Department of Housing, is to make enough money by combining the market-priced units along with the aid received from the city to “cross-subsidize” the price of units served for low-income families, in addition to creating a more diverse and stable residential environment.

On Monday, Mayor Daley followed the Cavalcade by announcing additional plans expand the program by harnessing “private market forces to provide affordable housing.” Daley claims the policies will help to create a whopping 1,000 low- or moderate-income housing units each year.

While mixing market-rate buyers and low-income families is an excellent idea, helping to alleviate the problems caused in high-density low-income areas, Tom Walsh, a coordinator with the Balanced Development Coalition said that too many homes on the Calvacade were aimed at middle-income buyers, with only five of the 40 developments offering units below $175,000.

As Walsh said, "It seems like the city is more interested in giving assistance to people who can afford $200,000 homes. ... Why not put the vast amount of city resources toward helping people who can only afford $100,000 homes?"

While housing costs are making things a bit difficult for many of us middle-incomers these days, we at Chicagoist can’t help but agree.

Image of Roosevelt Square development (1200 W. Roosevelt Rd.) from Cavalcade of Homes site