Bare-bones affordable housing plan gets the nod from Chicago aldermen

[Photo by Angela Caputo]

[Photo by Angela Caputo]

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s affordable housing plan cleared its first hurdle Tuesday when it was approved 8-2 by the City Council’s Housing and Real Estate Committee.

Absent from the measure was a proposed amendment that we wrote about last week that would have given aldermen more authority over how the city’s sister agency, the Chicago Housing Authority, spends down more than $661 million in unrestricted assets the agency is sitting on. 

The CHA’s swelling account could help offset some steep cuts to affordable housing that are on the horizon, supporters of the amendment say. Under Emanuel’s plan, the city would invest up to $1.3 billion in maintaining or creating housing through 2018. That’s roughly $800 million less than was committed under the city’s last five year-plan, which was rolled out by former Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2009.

However, “there wasn’t an opportunity to make changes to the plan,” says Leah Levinger, the director of the Chicago Housing Initiative, a coalition of low-income housing advocates that rallied the aldermanic support. “The chairman wouldn’t take a vote on any amendments.”

Now that the plan is moving forward without the change, Levinger says that the Chicago Housing Initiative is “looking to regroup with allies in the City Council who are sympathetic to the goal of preserving the low-income housing that remains in the city.”

Nearly half of the council–22 aldermen–signed on to the proposal. Nine of them sit on the City Council’s housing committee. Despite hefty support for adding some teeth to the plan, it was clear that the amendment wasn’t a sticking point for many when a clerk took the roll call. Alds. Scott Waguespack of the 32nd Ward and Nicholas Sposato of the 36th Ward cast the sole “no” votes. 

The measure now heads to the full City Council for a vote, but Levinger said that the coalition will continue to push for more CHA oversight. “We’re not done here,” she said. “We’re never done.”

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