September 14, 2020

Department of Housing Publishes Inclusionary Housing Task Force Report

Report includes a rewrite to the City’s Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) now open for public comment

The Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) today published its Inclusionary Housing Task Force Staff Report, marking an important step forward in the City’s commitment to ensure every neighborhood is affordable and accessible to all residents. The report focuses on a future rewrite of the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) which mandates that affordable housing be included in new market-rate residential buildings of more than 10 units and receive a zoning change or City financial support. 

“For nearly a year, the task force has been diligently working to review and offer innovative ideas to improve how and where affordable housing is created,” said DOH Commissioner Marisa Novara. “I want to thank the members for their hard work and dedication to draft a new ordinance that ensures our residents have equitable access to affordable housing throughout our city.”

The report is one of many contributions toward a new and enhanced ARO ordinance, along with the 45-day public comment period, a subject matter hearing later this month at the City Council Committee on Housing and Real Estate, and other community and stakeholder engagement. 

"All Chicagoans, regardless of their circumstances, deserve equal access to live and lead happy, fulfilled lives in whichever neighborhood they choose," said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. "This report is a critical first step to making this vision a reality and continues our efforts to create a more equitable Chicago. I look forward to working with the Department of Housing and other key stakeholders as we begin to roll out the Inclusionary Housing Task Force's recommendations."

While the ARO is just one of the City’s housing production tools and does not support as many units of affordable housing as larger programs like the Low Income Housing Tax Credit or Low Income Housing Trust Fund, the ARO is unique in its inclusionary mission to create affordable housing in neighborhoods where policy and market forces have not done so. The Inclusionary Housing Task Force report summarizes months of discussion on how the City can better accomplish this mission. The report makes several recommendations, including: 

  • Increasing the proportion of required affordable units that must be built, rather than paid for with an “in-lieu” fee; 
  • Building more deeply affordable and family-sized units; 
  • Offering more flexibility for off-site units, including through partnerships with affordable developers; 
  • Strengthening accessibility requirements; 
  • Exploring a centralized leasing and marketing system; 
  • Creating additional incentives for market-rate developers; and 
  • Creating a sustainable, dedicated source of funding for affordable housing. 

 The Inclusionary Housing Task Force process began in October 2019 when the Department of Housing put out a call for applications, a novel step designed to ensure a wider range of representation. Out of more than 200 applicants, 20 were chosen, including community advocates, market-rate and affordable housing developers, experts in development finance, and others.

The Task Force was chaired by Alds. Walter Burnett (27), Harry Osterman (48),  and Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25),  Tony Smith, of PNC Bank, Stacie Young from Preservation Compact, as well as Juan Sebastian Arias, who joined the Mayor’s office in July from the Metropolitan Housing Council. The Task Force met monthly beginning in December 2019 and wrapped up in early August.  

“Ensuring that every resident has access to affordable housing no matter the community or neighborhood has to be our highest priority,” said Ald. Osterman, Chair, Committee on Housing and Real Estate. “I’m proud of the work that we have done through this task force and especially this report that will be instrumental in drafting an Affordable Requirements Ordinance that places people first.” 

In addition to the Task Force, the report is informed by six focus groups on topics such as accessibility, market-rate realities and community-based feedback with affordability advocates and housing industry leaders. 

The report is available at chicago.gov/aro. During the 45-day public comment period, Chicagoans can send comments on the report to arocomment@cityofchicago.org. Chicagoans may also participate and speak at the virtual subject matter hearing at the Committee on Housing and Real Estate at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, September 23. The comments, as well as other stakeholder outreach, will inform an ordinance revising the current ARO, to be introduced this winter. 

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