ULI Chicago Releases Report Outlining Strategies for Promoting Workforce Housing in North River Communities, Chicago, IL
CHICAGO (December 12, 2017) —The Urban Land Institute Chicago (ULI Chicago) has released a report with strategies for promoting workforce housing, affordable to households earning between 50% and 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI), in Chicago’s North River communities. Albany Park, which is the core of the study area, is one of the most diverse Chicago area communities–two-thirds of the study area residents speak a language other than English at home, and while nearly a quarter of area households earn more than $100,000/year, another quarter lives on less than $25,000/year. Local elected and civic leaders have demonstrated a strong commitment to preserve the neighborhood’s diversity by providing a mix of housing options, affordable to lower and middle-income households.
The report, based on the work of ULI Chicago panelists, recommends a dual approach of preserving existing, naturally occurring workforce housing and building new workforce housing on redevelopment sites along commercial corridors. ULI Chicago panelists emphasize that the time to act is now, before market forces drive up land and home values, making it prohibitively expensive to implement affordable housing strategies. As one of the panelists, Bill Eager, Vice President, Preservation of Affordable Housing, said, “This is a moment in time where workforce housing opportunities still exist, at least in portions of the study area. Community leaders need to move quickly and bring their collective resources to bear to seize these opportunities.”
Specific recommendations include engaging local community organizations in identifying privately-owned, non-regulated, affordable multi-family properties that could be coming up for sale, and exploring opportunities for their transition to new owners who would maintain affordable rents instead of gut-rehabbing into high-end apartments. Panelists recommend exploring alternative financing sources such as Community Investment Corporation’s newly launched Opportunity Investment Fund to reduce reliance on public financing such as LIHTC. The panel recommends promoting home-ownership for middle-income families as another key strategy and recommends utilizing the Chicago Community Land Trust and other home-ownership assistance programs to assist potential homebuyers. Along with a strong focus on preservation, the panel recommends exploring opportunities for building new workforce housing units along Lawrence Avenue. Full recommendations are available in the report: Workforce Housing Strategies for North River Communities.
The report is based on a two-day, technical assistance workshop convened by ULI Chicago in June of this year in partnership with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) and the North River Communities. The 11-member expert panel toured the study area, interviewed local stakeholders, and reviewed detailed background information to understand the housing challenges facing North River communities, and develop practical solutions for helping maintain and strengthen their diverse housing stock.