October 14, 2019

CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING ANNOUNCES NEW AFFORDABLE REQUIREMENTS ORDINANCE (ARO) TASK FORCE

New task force designed to incorporate diverse voices in helping to inform how affordable housing is created throughout Chicago

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CHICAGO – The Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) today announced the creation of a new task force designed to work with the City as it develops new policies guiding how affordable housing is created to address a current citywide shortage and one of Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot’s biggest priorities. Set to begin in December, the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) Task Force will be charged with examining the ordinance in its current form and recommend revisions that will improve this important tool for inclusion used in the creation and equitable distribution of affordable housing throughout the city of Chicago.

"Creating accessible affordable housing for all Chicagoans is necessary to ensuring equitable growth and prosperity for every resident, and doing so will require developing creative and sustainable solutions to this complex challenge,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “The new ARO task force is composed of members from every background and experience in our city, and will help shape how we reevaluate our existing properties, as well as create innovative options that will enable every resident the ability to live safely, securely, and affordably, regardless of background."

The Task Force is open to all Chicago residents, civic organizations, community advocates, unions, and housing developers Starting today those interested in serving on the ARO Task Force can apply via the Department of housing website (Chicago.gov/housing), Facebook and Twitter (@ChicagoDOH). The application deadline is 5 p.m. Monday, October, 28.

"The Lightfoot administration is committed to creating more affordable housing options citywide, and that begins with evaluating existing tools and resources, like the ARO which is instrumental in providing housing for those most in need,” said DOH Commissioner Marisa Novara. “Our goal is to establish a transparent, equitable revision process and that requires engaging with those who are knowledgeable and most affected by issues of affordable housing. This task force is open to all Chicagoans and will be instrumental in making sure that all voices and ideas are represented and heard.”

The Task Force will be comprised of up to 20 members and will meet once a month for 4-6 months starting in December. The new Task Force is the latest in a series of initiatives by the administration designed to maximize transparency, accountability, and equity in the process for updating the ARO to best address Chicago’s affordable housing needs. To ensure fulsome engagement in the development of a new ARO framework, DOH will also conduct neighborhood focus groups, City Council subject matter hearings, and a public comment period on proposed changes.

The Affordable Requirements Ordinance mandates residential development projects that receive financial assistance from the City, require a zoning change, or involve city-owned land reserve a percentage of housing units for low-income residents. Currently, the ARO requires that developers reserve between 10 and 20 percent of their units as affordable. In some cases, developers also have the option to pay an "in-lieu" fee into Chicago's Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund (AHOF) in addition to or rather than include affordable units on-site. The fund generates millions of dollars every year to create and maintain affordable housing units across the city.

The ARO is one of the city's key housing tools and has helped thousands of Chicagoans find an affordable place to live. Between 2005 and 2018 the Affordable Requirements Ordinance directly created over 800 affordable units and generated nearly $94 million for the Affordable Housing Opportunity Fund, which helped to preserve or create thousands of additional units. The ARO delivers affordable housing in some of the city's most expensive areas, helping to reverse decades-old patterns of segregation.

Despite these gains, there remains an affordable housing deficit of approximately 120,000 units across the City of Chicago. The ARO was rewritten in 2015 and has undergone three council-approved pilot ordinances in attempts to increase its production of affordable housing and better match the unique market conditions found in different pockets of the city.

The ARO Task Force will be co-chaired by a trio of experts on housing, community investment and development: Stacie Young of Community Investments Corporation; Juan Sebastian Arias of the Metropolitan Planning Council; and Tony Smith of PNC Bank. Aldermanic co-chairs are Aldermen Harry Osterman (48), Walter Burnett (27) and Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25).

“I am deeply committed to being a part of this transformative process that will retune this important tool in such a way that it becomes even more effective in solving Chicago’s affordable housing crisis,” said Alderman Osterman. “I look forward to working with every member and stakeholders from across our city on this critical issue.”

DOH staff and co-chairs will select Task Force members based on the following criteria:

· Racial, gender and geographic diversity
· Skills, knowledge, and experience
· Availability and commitment
· Willingness to participate with both a point of view and an open mind

At the end of the process, DOH will publish the criteria by which ideas were chosen and will respond to ideas that are not included in the final ordinance to explain why they were not included.

Between the ARO Task Force, focus groups, public meetings, public comment, and the City’s budget and policy priorities, DOH will integrate all learnings and perspectives to improve the effectiveness of the Affordable Requirements Ordinance with the goal of a producing a revised ordinance by mid-2020.

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