Sign up for a free Courant newsletter for a chance to win $100 P.C. Richard gift card

Mayor's pilot program would boost affordable housing units

With massive development expected to make it difficult for low- and moderate-income people to afford housing on the Near North and Near West sides and along the Milwaukee Corridor, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is proposing a pilot program aimed at getting developers to incorporate affordable units into new residential buildings in those areas.

The mayor and Aldermen Walter Burnett and Joe Moreno announced Friday they will propose changes in the city's Affordable Requirement Ordinance to the City Council on Sept. 6. The changes aim to ease the pressures of gentrification.

Currently, developers have choices when constructing new residential buildings. They can either incorporate affordable units into 10 percent of a building they develop, or pay up to $225,000 into a fund. Many choose the payments. But if the City Council approves the new measure, developers won't be able to buy their way out.

The mayor's proposal creates three-year pilot programs in two areas. The Milwaukee Corridor Pilot Area will cover 9 square miles along Milwaukee Avenue within portions of Logan Square, Avondale and West Town. The Near North/Near West Pilot Area will cover about 6 square miles near the North Branch Industrial Corridor and on the Near West Side.

Developers building in those areas will either have to devote 15 percent of their units to affordable rentals, or they will have to build affordable units within 2 miles of the new building. If they build affordable units within the 2-mile area, they can't go beyond the boundaries of the pilot and the number of units they build must equal 20 percent of the residences in the new complex. Affordable units are required only for buildings with 10 units or more.

Under the requirements, a two-person household with an income of up to $50,600 could live in one of the affordable units in the Milwaukee Corridor. In the Near North, the highest income for half of the affordable units would be $37,920 for a couple, and the highest income for the other half would be up to $63,200.

"Mixed incomes have a benefit," city Planning Commissioner David Reifman said. He said the city is trying to avoid clustering low-income households, and as gentrification expands, the city needs homes for working families near the downtown. He anticipates the pilot will lead to 1,000 new affordable units.

The city's affordability requirements were last altered in 2015. Since then, there have been 536 affordable units incorporated into new buildings, according to the city. Developers have paid $18.5 million in fees to avoid putting the units into their buildings.

gmarksjarvis@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @gailmarksjarvis

Copyright © 2017, CT Now
30°