New Inclusionary Housing Task Force aims to improve affordable housing in Chicago

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced a new effort Wednesday that aims to bring improvements to affordable housing in the city of Chicago.

The mayor, along with the Department of Housing (DOH), have created the Inclusionary Housing Task Force to bring up recommendations and add broader housing policies to the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO).

The task force will include 20 community advocates, developers and other stakeholders who are experts on public health, homelessness, affordable housing finance, disability rights, labor, and affordable and market rate development.

Officials said their goal is to ensure equitable distribution of affordable housing.

Those selected are tasked with utilizing suggestions for improving the ARO's efficacy, as well as incorporating what has been learned from the Near North-Near West, Milwaukee Corridor and Pilsen-Little Village ARO pilot areas.

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"This group of industry stakeholders will be instrumental in ensuring that this vital tool is updated to better address the City's affordable housing shortage," said Mayor Lightfoot. "As we work toward a more equitable city, the Inclusionary Housing Task Force will serve as our conscience as we strive as a united city that affordable housing options are located throughout Chicago's 77 communities."

The task force will convene for the first time in December, followed by meetings once a month for up to six months as the city seeks to develop new polices guiding how and where affordable housing is created.

The goal of the task force is to address a citywide shortage of affordable housing options as well as Chicago's racial and economical segregation issues.

The task force is just one in a series of initiatives by the Lightfoot administration designed to bring transparency, accountability and equity in the process of updating the ARO and broader housing policies.

Currently, the ARO mandates residential development projects that receive financial assistance form the city, require a zoning change, or involve a city-owned land reserved for a percentage of housing units for low-income residents.

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City officials said the ARO has helped thousands of Chicagoans find an affordable place to live and since 2003 have constructed more than 1,000 units of affordable housing.

They also stated that the ordinance has generated more than $120 million for the ARO Fund, which aims to help preserve or create thousands of additional units in some of the city's most expensive areas in an effort to reverse what they say is a decades-old pattern of segregation.

RELATED: City launches new dashboard for affordable housing data

In early November, the Department of Housing unveiled a new, interactive, user-friendly tool, the ARO Dashboard, to make affordable housing data more transparent and accessible to the public. The dashboard includes data never released to the public, such as ARO project statuses, and organizes the information geographically and visually to aid in assessments of the ordinance and will serve as an important tool for the Task Force as it examines the effectiveness of the ARO.

Juan Sebastian Arias of the Metropolitan Planning Council, Tony Smith of PNC Bank and Stacie Young of Preservation Compact have been named the three co-chiars of the Inclusionary Housing Task Force. Aldermen Walter Burnett (27th-Ward), Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th-Ward) and Harry Osterman (48th-Ward) will also sit as the three aldermanic co-chairs.

Over the course of the meeting, the task force has set a goal to produce a revised ordinance by mid-2020.