Mayor supports housing relief, but not CBA

 

By AARON GETTINGER
Staff writer

Mayor Lori Lightfoot anticipates passing affordable housing legislation in early 2020, with the plan finalized by the end of the year but she is not committed to passing the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) ordinance Alds. Leslie Hairston (5th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th) have introduced.

All three elected officials say the proposed ordinance has legal issues; the mayor wants the eventual ordinance to be legal, balanced and supportive of continued access to housing for existing residents near the OPC. The ordinance was introduced in response to concerns about displacement and rising housing costs around the Obama Presidential Center site and the University of Chicago

The three met Monday with representatives from the Chicago Law and Housing departments and a legal representative from the CBA Coalition to discuss the issue.

“The city remains committed to working in good faith with all parties toward a goal of finalizing the plan by end of the year so that it can be presented to the City Council early in 2020,” Housing Department spokesman Don Terry said in a statement Monday.

The city’s position is that an affordability requirements ordinance (ARO) pilot covering the 5th and 20th wards, as proposed in Hairston and Taylor’s CBA, is premature until an Inclusionary Housing Task Force, created earlier this month, evaluates changes and improvements to the existing citywide ARO, including concerns about displacement and the equitable distribution of affordable housing.

The current citywide ARO has 10% to 20% levels for affordable housing, while Hairston and Taylor’s bill calls for 30% levels.

The Task Force’s work is set to begin in mid-December and end four to six months later.

“Mayor Lightfoot has been clear that her administration needed to step up and play a role in addressing legitimate concerns of residents and not maintain a void that left only the Obama Presidential Center and University of Chicago as the sole actors responding to residents,” said spokeswoman Lauren Huffman said in a statement Saturday, adding that the administration “is focused on ensuring a robust and inclusive community engagement process as the Obama Presidential Center project comes to fruition.”

The Housing Department has led weekly meetings with Woodlawn residents, aldermen and other stakeholders to inform an affordable housing plan to prevent displacement and foster homeownership in the area. Taylor said she asked for the facilitation because she wanted area renters and homeowners, the CBA Coalition, Pastor Byron T. Brazier of the Apostolic Church of God, 6320 S. Dorchester Ave., the University of Chicago, the Obama Foundation and Emerald South Economic Development Collaborative CEO Ghian Foreman to share space together.

“With this input, the mayor has committed to finalizing this plan by the year’s end, while continuing to ensure that as this project moves forward, the city leverages all of its tools to maximize community benefits for residents and businesses,” Huffman said.

Responding to the statement on Saturday, Taylor, who had said on Friday that Lightfoot told her she is “making a commitment to make sure this gets passed before the year is over,” said she hoped to get “a clear understanding from the administration (about) what is and what is not (legal)” on Monday. She said she was open to other legislation so long as it protects affordable housing in the 20th Ward.

“I’m clear about what the city’s job is, but I’m crystal clear about what my job is as alderwoman, and my job is to protect my constituents and my ward, and I’m going to do that by any means necessary,” Taylor said. “I am tired with playing games with folks about language, how people feel about people, and their candle-light vigils. Roll up your sleeves, and let’s do this work to protect this community.”

On Friday, Hairston also said she hoped the Monday meeting would clarify what can and cannot be done through a housing ordinance.

“We want to achieve the best balance for the whole community,” she said. “From what I have heard at the meetings, there are residents in Woodlawn — homeowners — who felt that they had not been heard as of yet. Now they are having their voices heard, and I think that’s a positive thing.”

Hairston could not be reached for comment about the Monday meeting before Herald press time. Taylor did not respond to request for comment.

a.gettinger@hpherald.com