Chicago mayoral candidate Lori Lightfoot released a new policy proposal to create housing that is affordable and to prevent homelessness. The full policy is available here. Lightfoot has previously released comprehensive policies relating to good government, public safety, and LGBTQ+ rights.

“Stable and affordable housing is critical to all aspects of a family’s well-being and a city’s economic prosperity,” said Lightfoot. “For too long, Chicago city government has failed to provide a range of quality housing options, thus exacerbating homelessness and segregation while undermining workforce stability and forcing low-and moderate-income Chicagoans out of their neighborhoods and even out of the city.

“In 2016, the demand in Chicago for housing that is affordable outstripped supply by nearly 120,000 units and the gap is growing. The City must prioritize the construction, preservation, and renovation of housing that is affordable, work to prevent homelessness, and expand the tools available to address these issues. These goals require leadership and a willingness to partner with the numerous organizations that stand ready to provide rental and home ownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income Chicagoans.”

A Lightfoot administration will:

Prioritize building, preserving, and renovating housing that is affordable: Lightfoot will attract and empower employees in relevant City departments who understand the importance of creating housing that is affordable in every neighborhood. Lightfoot will also streamline the process for building housing that is affordable by removing regulatory barriers and engaging with stakeholders earlier in the process so parties can identify, address, and resolve potential issues before they threaten to derail developments.

Limit aldermanic prerogative: In Chicago, aldermen can unilaterally stop or limit real estate development in their wards. Lightfoot will limit aldermanic prerogative by supporting the Affordable Housing Equity Ordinance, which provides that if a development with affordable units is proposed in a ward where less than 10% of the rental housing stock is affordable, the proposed development automatically goes through a streamlined approval process. Under this new system, aldermen will be able to help shape developments and request changes but will no longer have veto power over developments or the unilateral ability to reduce the number of units that are affordable.

Amend the Affordable Requirements Ordinance to increase affordable options in neighborhoods: Lightfoot will introduce an amendment to the Affordable Requirements Ordinance with four significant changes: doubling the percentage of affordable units that must be built in or near the new market-rate development from 25% to 50%, requiring that half of affordable units built are located in the development, ensuring that affordable units not built in the development are built within one mile rather than two, and requiring that some units are large enough to accommodate families. This will promote geographic distribution of housing that is affordable, improve workforce stability, and increase opportunities for families to stay in Chicago.

Create a transparent Qualified Allocation Plan to distribute Low Income Housing Tax Credits: Chicago receives Low Income Housing Tax Credits to build affordable housing units but does not use a best practices tool, namely Qualified Allocation Plans, which clarify criteria and eligibility for these credits. To create a transparent, level playing field free from improper political influence, the City will develop an annual Qualified Allocation Plan to guide the distribution of tax credits for affordable housing in ways that advance the City’s housing priorities, such as development proposals that provide supportive housing and housing for people with special needs and/or disabilities.

Amend zoning laws to allow for use of innovative housing and construction materials and methods: Due to restrictive zoning and building laws,Chicago lags behind other cities in using innovative types of housing, construction materials, and construction methods to build housing that is affordable. Lightfoot will direct relevant City departments to modify zoning and building codes to encourage the creation of additional innovative housing units.

Implement a graduated real estate transfer tax: Lightfoot will seek referendum approval to replace the regressive real estate transfer tax with a graduated real estate transfer tax. This change is estimated to generate between $80 million and $150 million in additional revenue that can be used to address homelessness and support housing that is affordable. Under the new graduated rate structure, nearly 95% of property transactions citywide would receive a tax cut on the sale of properties. For example, a transaction for a $250,000 home would result in $1,000 savings.

Expand use of Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives as a pathway to home ownership: Lightfoot will expand pathways to home ownership for low-and moderate-income Chicagoans, including through Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives, which allow members of a co-op to purchase shares of a building and live in a unit of that building. Lightfoot will work to create more Limited Equity Housing Cooperatives throughout the city, especially in areas with gentrification and low rates of home ownership, and create grants and other policies to ensure co-op shares are available to low- and moderate-income families.

Audit the Chicago Housing Authority voucher program: Lightfoot will order an audit of the Chicago Housing Authority voucher waiting list and work to bring greater transparency to the process for allocating and awarding all available Housing Choice vouchers.

Prevent homelessness: Lightfoot will allocate new revenue generated by the graduated real estate transfer tax to assist people who are at risk of homelessness and people who are homeless but fall shy of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development definition of chronic homelessness. The new revenue will complement existing funding to allow providers to meet the needs of individuals and families sooner. This flexible funding will allow money to be spent on housing needs, mental health services, family counseling, short-term rent subsidies, transportation subsidies, and other services to help address the root causes of issues that can lead to homelessness.