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City Pushes Developers To Build Affordable Units In Pricey Neighborhoods

By Kate Shepherd in News on Oct 17, 2015 2:50PM

next-apartment.jpg New luxury high rises are being built at an incredible rate in the city especially near the old Cabrini-Green site. The new 310-unit, upscale "NEXT" apartment building is going up now at the corner of Chestnut and Orleans. Instead of including affordable housing in the tower, the developer gave $3.1 million to the city's affordable housing opportunity fund, according to WBEZ.

When residential developers build on city-owned land or receive financial help, the city requires them to provide 10 percent of the building's units at affordable prices or they can pay the affordable housing opportunity fund but the requirements are getting stricter.

WBEZ discovered that developers have spent $77 million dollars from 2005-2015 to not include affordable housing in their buildings. Most of the buildings that opted out were in pricy neighborhoods: River North, Wrigleyville or downtown. The fees were used as rent subsidies for apartment units in other buildings.

"It made me think that, man, I've been allowing these guys to opt out into support other affordable developments on the West Side and other areas in the ward but not here," Ald. Walter Burnett (27th Ward), who represents a diverse area from West Loop to low-income areas on the West Side, told WBEZ.

He worked to change the city's affordable housing ordinance accordingly. Now residential developers who want to build now must include one fourth of the 10 percent requirement of affordable units at the site or they could build the units off site within two miles. They pay more for building outside of the radius.

Finding affordable housing is a huge challenge for Section 8 voucher holders who face discrimination, according to an investigation by WBEZ.

"I allowed this to happen," he told WBEZ. "I allowed for one type of group of people with a certain amount of money in the neighborhood, and it needs to be mixed. So I said from here on out people are going to have to do some affordable over here. I can't let them opt out anymore."

Developers would still pay a fee ranging from $100,000 to $225,000 thousand dollars for each unit not built.