Where do city-funded affordable housing developments get built?

Many areas of Chicago have seen no new below-market housing supported by city funds since at least 2009

This post was written by CTBA intern Daniel La Spata.

Of the many rules being reconsidered and revisited by the current presidential administration, one of the most important for housing policy is the Affirmative Furthering Fair Housing rule. Forwarding the Fair Housing Act’s aim of promoting “meaningful actions…to overcome the legacy of segregation, unequal treatment, and historic lack of access to housing,” the rule supported municipalities and housing agencies with data on factors such as job proximity and school proficiency that can help them identify opportunity areas for affordable housing and required them to explicitly incorporate fair housing planning into forthcoming planning efforts.

Value of development assistance from the City of Chicago, 2009–2017

As a city continuing to struggle with segregation and its economic and cultural cost, many Chicagoans are acutely sensitive to the need to further fair housing for those living in segregated and disinvested communities. The question of how the city has spent its resources to support low-income housing projects is very relevant to this policy goal. In the nine years for which affordable housing quarterly reports are available online (2009–2017), the Department of Planning and Development has approved 113 mixed income or affordable housing developments, creating or preserving over 9400 units of affordable rental housing through over $1.5 billion dollars of assistance. The developments are mapped to the left by community area.

City-assisted low-income housing units approved, 2009–2017

While development is spread across forty-six of the city’s seventy-seven community areas, it is strongly concentrated on the south and west sides of the city. The same pattern is shown when measuring the distribution of city development assistance. Ten of the city’s community areas accounted for 61 percent of all affordable housing units approved over the past nine years and 63 percent of all development assistance offered by the city.

To understand how the city’s affordable housing investments have served to affirmatively further fair housing, we have mapped concentrations of affordable housing and financing assistance against levels of segregation, measured here as being at least 80 percent Black and/or Hispanic, or poverty, using the standard of 20 percent are more households living in poverty.

While some integrated communities such as the Near North Side and Near West Side have seen significant affordable housing investments, mainly through CHA and SRO re-developments, most of the developments the city has approved and invested in have been in highly segregated neighborhoods. We also found that 70 percent of the housing units were developed in communities with poverty rates of 20 percent or higher, with the ten community areas with the greatest concentration of units having an average poverty rate of 32 percent.

When these factors are taken together, we find twenty-nine community areas that are both segregated and have high poverty rates. Twenty of these communities had affordable housing developments approved and funded over the past nine years, accounting for 56 percent of all approved units.

We contrasted this against communities with relatively low poverty rates of 15% or below (more than seven percentage points below the Chicago citywide poverty rate of 22.3 percent). These twenty five community areas accounted for only 20 percent of approved housing units, mostly concentrated in the Near North Side, with fourteen community areas adding no units at all.

There are rational arguments for locating affordable housing in low income communities. It supports community development and jobs creation in disinvested communities and builds housing where the targeted population currently resides. If Chicago’s goal, however, is to reduce segregation by affirmatively furthering fair housing and create housing opportunities in low poverty well-resourced communities, then housing advocates may want to examine whether the city’s Qualified Allocation Plan (“QAP”) for distributing assistance and approving projects is an effective tool for achieving that aim.

Ten Community Areas with Greatest Number of City-Assisted Low-Income Units

  • Grand Boulevard
  • Near North Side
  • Woodlawn
  • North Lawndale
  • Near West Side
  • Uptown
  • West Garfield Park
  • Englewood
  • Oakland
  • Douglas

Community Areas Adding No City-Assisted Low-Income Housing Units, 2009–2017

  • Lincoln Square
  • Jefferson Park
  • Forest Glen
  • Near South Side
  • Loop
  • Calumet Heights
  • North Center
  • Archer Heights
  • Clearing
  • Lincoln Park
  • Beverly
  • Mount Greenwood
  • Morgan Park
  • Edison Park
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