Activists push for affordable housing

January 13, 2011 4:58:17 PM PST
A vote has been postponed on the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance that sets aside property tax dollars for affordable housing.

For months, supporters of something known as the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance have been lobbying aldermen for their support. Finally, there were enough votes for a measure that would designate 20 percent of the city's Tax Increment Finance revenues, known as TIF funds, to acquire and rehab foreclosed properties.

But the vote never happened. Supporters are blaming dirty politics.

As Chicago's foreclosure rate skyrockets, the Sweet Home Chicago coalition packed City Hall chambers with the belief that Thursday would be the day the Chicago City Council would finally pass an ordinance that has been in the works for almost two years.

"The Sweet Home Chicago coalition's ordinance would allocate 20 percent of TIF funds each year to be spent the following year on affordable housing projects and foreclosure mitigation in the TIF districts," said Bruce Beal.

After deferring a vote on the ordinance last month, 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett had enough votes Thursday to pass it.

To get on the agenda a 24-hour notice is required by city law, but 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke objected, saying under the state Open Meetings Act, 48 hours is required. Mayor Daley Agreed.

"Under the law it says a 48-hour notice in advance. Forty-eight-hours. If anybody objects to that I have to respond to that. There's nothing wrong with the ordinance," Daley said.

But Burnett and the Sweet Home Chicago coalition are blaming the mayor and Burke for derailing the vote.

"If they wanted to beat it on the merits, they can have that discussion, but they pulled out a state law there, and they applied it to specifically this initiative, and that is the kind of underhanded politics that gives the city the bad name," said Beal.

"All we are asking is for a piece of the pie of the TIF money so that we can be able to acquire some of these foreclosed properties so that we can build affordable housing in the city of Chicago," Burnett said.

Burnett is counting on next month's meeting to get the ordinance passed. For now, he can't count on 34th Ward Alderman Carrie Austin's vote.

"I have a problem with that, because that is not what I have explained to my community that is what we would do with our TIFs," Austin said.

The ordinance sponsor, Alderman Burnett, says he has the votes and will get it on next month's agenda.

But the 27th ward alderman fears there will be efforts again to delay the vote until after the municipal election. Burnett says it must pass before a new City Council is seated, because he fears a new mayor and new aldermen will have their own plans on how TIF money should be spent.