The Chicago Department of Housing and University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy and Practice to Examine the Role of Government in Creating Wealth-Building Opportunities for Marginalized Communities Through Homeownership

April 12, 2022

The Chicago Department of Housing (DOH) and the University of Chicago Crown Family School for Social Work, Policy and Practice today announced a new partnership to examine how city governments around the world are using housing policies to promote wealth building in communities that are majority people of color. This research will inform the department and others on what governments are doing to address and reverse decades of disinvestment and predatory housing practices that have prevented communities of color from building generational wealth through homeownership.

“Decades of disinvestment - redlining, restrictive covenants, contract buying, predatory lending - have left many Black and Brown communities with vacant lots, vacant storefronts, and low land values, issues that prevent the residents of these communities from building generational wealth through homeownership,” said DOH Commissioner Marisa Novara. “I am happy to say that we at DOH and many other housing agencies worldwide are establishing equitable solutions that are revitalizing communities. This partnership with the Crown Family School will provide a road map of what is working and what is not and the path to creating more affordable homeownership opportunities throughout our cities. Government has long been complicit in creating inequitable outcomes by race and class; as such, this is our work to do.”

This partnership will identify inclusive housing policies that can effectively build wealth among Chicago’s traditionally marginalized populations and shrink the City’s racial wealth gap. Over the coming months, a research team led by the Crown Family School’s Office of Community Partnership and Impact, and McCormick Foundation Professor Robert Chaskin, will survey the myriad ways that city governments around the world are enacting policies that leverage housing policy to accelerate wealth building for marginalized communities, particularly communities of color.

Upon completion, the team will produce a report identifying promising housing practices and policies that increase financial security for low- and moderate-income households and improve wealth equity. The University’s Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation will then convene a global symposium that will bring together housing leaders from a select group of cities – including those featured in the written report – to delve into research findings and to discuss how housing policy and related wealth-building interventions in other communities can inform new, targeted, and more equitable outcomes here in Chicago.

“The Crown Family School is thrilled to partner with the Department of Housing on this important effort to help build wealth in Chicago’s underserved communities,” said Deborah Gorman-Smith, dean of the Crown Family School and the Emily Klein Gidwitz Professor. “We are committed to strategic partnerships, like this one, that leverage our faculty expertise and the talents and energy of our students to help civic partners tackle pressing issues that impact our communities.”

This partnership is part of the Chicago Department of Housing’s continued commitment to examine the outcomes of its work by race and adjust accordingly. In 2021, DOH released the country’s first Racial Equity Impact Assessment (REIA) on a Qualified Allocation Plan for Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). REIAs examine how different racial and ethnic groups will likely be or have been affected by an action, decision, or policy. The recommendations included increasing opportunities for developers and contractors of color to participate, ensuring tenant applicants are not unfairly screened out by conviction records or credit scores, and addressing residents’ mental health needs. Through the REIA, and thanks in part to the Lightfoot Administration and Chicago Recovery Plan, DOH selected 24 awardees, more than double the number selected in 2019, for a total investment of $1 billion in affordable rental housing.


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