How subsidized housing rules compare

Mayor Tisdahl says they would have only minimal impact. Developers say they decrease affordability overall. But what are the actual provisions of affordable housing rules adopted recently in Chicago and coming up for consideration later this month in Evanston?

Here's a comparison of key provisions of the existing and proposed ordinances in Evanston, and the newly adopted Chicago ordinance with Chicago's previous rules.

Click on the image for a larger, .pdf version of the chart.

Community Development Director Mark Muenzer says the biggest changes in the proposed new Evanston ordinance would be to expand its coverage to include rental as well as for-sale properties and expand the size of projects covered from just planned developments with 25 or more units to any project with five or more units.

Chicago's old and new ordinances cover both for-sale and rental developments with 10 or more units — but only when developers get zoning changes that increase a project's density or receive public funds or city land for the project.

Evanston's ordinance now calls for making 10 percent of the units in a project affordable. The old and new Chicago ordinances and the proposed new Evanston ordinance also call for 10 percent affordable units — but up the requirement to 20 percent if the project receives public funding.

Neither version of either town's ordinance actually requires that the called-for affordable units be built on the project site. They provide "fee in lieu" waiver options instead.

Chicago's new ordinance does require that a quarter of the affordable units be built either on site in the neighborhood, except that downtown for-sale projects could either build those units anywhere in the city or escape the on-site requirement completely by paying a $225,000 in-lieu fee per required unit.

The proposed changes to Evanston's ordinance would increase the in-lieu fee from $40,000 to $100,000 per unit.

Chicago's new ordinance switches from having a $100,000 in-lieu fee citywide to a scheme in which the city is divided into three zones with differing fee rates. Downtown developments would pay $175,000 while in the rest of the city the fee would be $100,000 in high-income neighborhoods and $50,000 in lower-income neighborhoods.

Mayor Tisdahl.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahal, in her state of the city address last month, said that while many Evanstonians are experiencing problems finding housing they can afford, "Amendments to strengthen the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance could slow the loss of affordable housing, but the gains would be minimal."

The mayor suggested looking at two other strategies — changing zoning rules to permit "micro units" — commonly defined as apartments between 300 and 500 square feet in size — and more efforts to increase jobs and wages so people have more money in their housing budgets.

Muenzer said city staff has begun a preliminary review of what would need to be changed in the city code to permit smaller housing units and has met with a developer who's done quite a few such projects in Chicago.

A key component of the micro-housing concept, Muenzer said, is that it's also tied to transit-oriented development. Any small-unit project should also be located close to public transit, so that parking requirements can be reduced as another way to make the housing more affordable.

Whether requiring developer contributions for affordable housing actually makes housing more affordable is disputed by developers.

Randy Fifield, vice chairman of Fifield Cos., whose new E2 development has just opened in Evanston, says the increased cost to developers is passed along to renters of the market-rate units, in effect decreasing affordability throughout the market.

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