Principles of Development

Last updated: November 2, 2009 – 2:15 PM

Chicago has 77 very distinct community areas. Our diverse communities make Chicago a dynamic, culturally-vibrant city. Many of these same communities are threatened by unmitigated development that hurts current residents and decreases the supply of affordable housing.

Our coalition of community based and citywide organizations wants to preserve Chicago’s diverse communities. These communities are more than geographic locations on a map. They are centers of culture and ethnic heritage. Most importantly, they are home to the people who live and work there. Communities develop their own identities because of the relationships that develop between neighbors, businesses and the land. When we speak of preservation, we mean preserving the community, its buildings, its people, and the connections between them.

MTO is not against development.

Development is an investment in a community. Our belief is that development should be done for the community and not done to the community. The prime beneficiaries of development should be the people living in the community where the development takes place. Certainly, no one should be forced to move from a community because of development or lack of development. We do not believe that displacement is the inevitable result of development.

Preservation is a development strategy. It must be a part of community planning. It is a strategy that aims to uplift the entire community. It benefits our communities and the city as a whole.

Principles of Community Friendly Development:

1. Development with no displacement.
The displacement of communities of color and moderate low and very low-income residents is all too frequently the result of development. We do not believe that displacement is an inevitable result of development. When relocation is unavoidable, relocated tenants should be offered alternatives within the same community first.

* A relocation board should determine relocation assistance given to tenants who are relocated by development.
* Construction before destruction. Any project receiving public funds or tax credits must replace comparable housing on at least a one for one basis within the affected community prior to demolition.
* Strengthen condominium laws to preserve affordable rental units.

2. Buildings and the community are preserved.
Chicago’s housing stock is unique in character. Proper building maintenance saves buildings and benefits the community. Buildings should be torn down as a last resort.

* The city, state and federal governments should offer incentives to landlords who maintain their buildings and keep them affordable while landlords who fail to maintain their buildings should be heavily penalized.
* Receivership programs should be used as a tool for community preservation.
* Early intervention strategies need to be put in place in the Building Department, Corporation Counsel, and Housing Court. These strategies would identify buildings with many code violations and in danger of demolition and put them in a fast track preservation program.
* Landlords, non-profit developers and for profit developers need more access to capital to maintain buildings and keep them affordable to community residents.
* An immediate freeze on the demolition of Single Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotels.
* The City should enforce its ownership information posting requirement.

3. Housing remains affordable and available to moderate, low and very low-income residents after development. Affordability means no one has to pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent.
* New development must be affordable to current residents. Specifically all new developments should have 50% of all units reserved for people of moderate, low and very low-income.
* The Chicago median income and not the Metropolitan area median income should be used to define affordability.
* Fair rent board should be established to evaluate excessive rent increases and prevent rent gouging.
* Priority for city-financed projects should go to projects that provide housing to low and very low-income residents.
* The City should establish an escrow account for security deposits. Interest would be used to finance community projects for moderate, low and very low income residents.
* Building and Zoning Codes are modernized to remove barriers to affordable housing.

4. Development does not close off communities to certain income classes and is accessable to people with disabilities.
Very low, low and moderate-income residents must have access to housing in all communities. People must not be isolated geographically based on their race, ethnicity (including immigration status), familial status, gender, income or disability.

* Fair Housing laws need to be strengthened and strongly enforced. There should be citywide testing of fair housing laws.
* Developers should adhere to, and go beyond, strict accessibility standards, so that housing is available to persons with disabilities.
* Developers must set aside units for section 8 tenants and the city, must provide incentives for landlords to accept section 8 tenants. Section 8 vouchers must be accepted citywide so that their use does not perpetuate segregation.
* There should be City incentives to build and maintain affordable units for families with children.

5. Communities should be the planners. The planning process is democratic and involves the entire community.
* Prior to decision making, the City should conduct meaningful public hearings into developments, including TIFs. A diverse group of community members, and not market forces, must prioritize and decide community interests and needs.
* Communities should be given ultimate veto capacity when projects do not adhere to principles of fair development.
* Non-profit developers should be prioritized as partners in city funded community development.
* Communities, and especially tenants, have the right to organize to see that development benefits existing residents.
* Community members must be included in the process of rewriting the zoning laws.

6. Community members and businesses benefit from the development.
* A minimum of 30 percent of development jobs should go to people who live in the community.
* Subcontractors who reside within the community should be given preference over outside contractors.
* Economic development should be geared to help local community businesses and residents.
* Federal community development money should be directed to communities with a higher percentage of low and very low-income residents.

7. City services, including public education, health and transportation, are equally divided among all neighborhoods so that the cycle of disinvestment and speculation is not perpetuated.
* Property tax code and city zoning codes should be restructured to maintain long-term residency and affordability while maintaining city services.
* There should be property tax relief for long time community residents, including renters.
* Zoning laws should encourage development and preservation of affordable housing.
* The City, at a community’s direction, should bring in needed public and private resources.

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