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The Mechanics
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Daley Mon Jan 12 2009

Give Daley His Due

This is good news, reported by Fran Spielman in the Sun-Times, that the city is pursuing $2.1bn to fund 50,000 affordable housing units in the city by the year 2013.

Affordable housing is one of those foundational issues that, if addressed properly, can have a ripple effect that addresses many other problems. When housing is available and affordable, ghettoization stops. It slows gentrification and can encourage more mixed communities. We could ask why the Mayor waited until after twenty years of unmitigated gentrification completely changed the face of dozens of neighborhood, but here at Mechanics we're forward looking, so we won't. Here's a tidbit:

Arguing that affordable housing is "more important than ever" in an economic downturn, Mayor Daley on Wednesday committed $2.1 billion to create 50,022 units of rental and for-sale housing by 2013....The financing crucial to any deal will come from federal and state funding, low-income tax credits, bonds, loans and tax-increment financing subsidies.

It would also be important to get the fine print details about this "affordable housing". As we know all too well, it isn't hard to make "affordable housing" into "impossible housing".

There was also some press coverage of the Mayor's ribbon-cutting for a homeless shelter for AIDS victims in the 46th:

A new $2 million home for the homeless who are living with HIV and/or AIDS opened Saturday on Chicago's North Side.

Someone more cynical than me may refer to that news as a diversion; as that news was crowded out by this news, which those of us who have lived in the area knew all too well, about the destruction of the historic Chicago Christian Industrial League building in Greektown. (Tim Novak reporting)

Normally when the city provides such financial assistance for a development, there are strings attached: The developers must set aside one of every five condos as affordable housing. Or else they have to pay a hefty fee -- about $4.2 million in the case of the Greektown project....But Marchese and his partners -- indicted Republican power broker William F. Cellini and developer William Senne -- didn't have to do either one.

Ouch. Marchese is the kind of guy Michael Sneed would describe as a "lunch pal" of the Mayor's.

The Mayor is liable for criticism on lots of issues and we should slam him when he's wrong, but we need to be really careful not to turn our fellow citizens in politics (or entertainment or whatever) into cartoon character villains; we all have a tendency to do it, especially with guys like the Mayor, who is a colorful personality who has now run this city for a generation.

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Jeff SmithAuthor Profile Page / January 12, 2009 6:49 PM

There's also an important interrelationship between affordable housing and sustainability. The benefits of urban transit-oriented density, or "smart growth" communities, only attain when jobs are easily reachable from residences. Gentrify out secretaries, orderlies, loading dock workers, retail clerks, etc., by filling a neighborhood with nothing but expensive residential and commercial development, and those workers end up driving long distances. Sound urban planning doesn't just chase the quickest, biggest development dollar, but takes the long view by including both a mix of workplaces and a mix of housing.

Ramsin CanonAuthor Profile Page / January 12, 2009 6:51 PM

Great point Jeff. If Chicagoans can't live and work in the same or nearby communities, we'll never solve congestion and sprawl, we'll just stratify the city into "zones" of varying quality.

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