By Alden Loury

March 9, 2011

It’s clear that Chicago needs more affordable housing. Nearly half of Chicago households paying a mortgage and nearly half of Chicago households paying rent are spending 30 percent or more of their household income on housing and associated costs, according to an analysis of foreclosure and census data by The Chicago Reporter..

Twice this year Chicago aldermen have stalled a vote on the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance, which would mandate that the city spend 20 percent of tax-increment financing revenue for affordable housing. In January, 14th Ward Alderman Ed Burke derailed the vote with a rules objection. In February, 28 aldermen voted to table the discussion at least until after the election. The Chicago City Council could address the proposed ordinance, introduced by 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, during today’s council meeting.

While some wards are saddled more with foreclosures and high housing costs, no ward is immune to the problem. In fact, a Chicago Reporter analysis shows that the needs are even greater in the wards of the 28 aldermen who voted to table a vote on the ordinance at the Feb. 9th council meeting. Among those wards, foreclosures have increased slightly higher than in the wards of aldermen who voted not to table the ordinance. In addition, the percentage of mortgage-paying households and rent-paying households that pay at least 30 percent of their income for mortgage, rent and associated costs is slightly higher in the wards of aldermen who voted to table the ordinance.

In particular, 48th Ward Alderman Mary Ann Smith and 43rd Ward Alderman Vi Daley, both of whom are vacating their seats this spring, voted to table the ordinance despite their wards being ranked first and second in the increase of foreclosures from 2009 to 2010, according to foreclosure data from the Woodstock Institute.

At a whopping 70.3 percent and 68.6 percent, respectively, the 31st ward and the 37th ward rank first and third for the percentage of mortgage-paying households where select owner costs (including mortgage, real estate taxes, utilities and condominium fees) total at least 30 percent of household income. Yet, 31st Ward Alderman Rey Suarez and 37th Ward Aldermen Emma Mitts voted to table the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance.

More than 70 percent of the renters in Alderman Carrie Austin’s 34th ward and more than 60 percent of renters in Alderman Lola Lane’s 18th ward and Mitts’ 37th ward are paying at least 30 percent of their income on rent. Yet, all three aldermen vote to table the ordinance.

See the embedded document below–in Table 1–for a breakdown of how the aldermen voted on Feb. 9th plus a breakdown of foreclosures, cost-burdened home owners and rent-burdened renters for each of the city’s 50 wards. Table 2 provides aggregate figures based on how the aldermen voted on Feb. 9th.

There may be better options to provide affordable housing for Chicagoans, but it appears that something must get done–and soon.

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