I believe that the neighborhoods of the 47th ward should be affordable to residents across the spectrum, from young singles to families with children to seniors. From City Hall, I worked with Ald. Ameya Pawar to pass a number affordable housing reforms at City Hall over the past six years: from a 2015 law requiring developers to include more affordable units at the site of their projects to a 2014 law that has helped preserve single-room occupancy buildings in gentrifying neighborhoods. As alderman, I will put this experience and knowledge of the zoning code to work to:
Focus on preserving two- and three-flats. I will support efforts to preserve two- and three-flat buildings, including:
- Requiring developers of large residential projects to invest in preservation. I will develop an initiative that utilizes the existing Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) – which I helped pass into law as a City Hall staffer – to preserve 2-4 unit multifamily buildings. I will work with the city’s Planning and Development Department to require large 47th ward residential projects to preserve as affordable the equivalent of 15% of their units by purchasing and maintaining as affordable two- and three-flats within the ward. I will support pairing this requirement with a tax incentive to ensure that the funding exists to perform regular maintenance at the affordable buildings.
- Supporting tax relief for owner occupied apartment buildings. I will advocate for a new initiative with the incoming Cook County Assessor to offer predictable tax relief in the form of reduced assessments for owner occupied apartment buildings where the units are kept affordable.
- Advocating for a dedicated financing pool for preservation. I will work with aldermen representing wards that are losing two- and three-flats to advocate for the city to set aside affordable housing funds to help residents and nonprofits acquire these buildings to keep them affordable. Too often, these buildings are taken off the market quickly by well-financed developers because it takes longer for affordable buyers to pull the financing together.
Fight to strengthen tax relief for long-time residents. I will fight for state legislation to strengthen the long-term homeowner’s exemption. Currently, it applies to homeowners with annual incomes at or below $100,000 who have owned their homes for at least ten years. Unfortunately, the exemption ends up only being utilized by less than 2% of eligible homeowners in Cook County because it cannot be used in conjunction with other exemptions. I will support simplifying this exemption to make it a flat 5% ceiling on year-over-year property tax increases for eligible homeowners.
Promote incentives for affordable units in large buildings. In recent years, many owners of large, older apartment buildings that have historically been affordable have raised rents in order to pay for costly maintenance. Earlier this year, the Community Investment Corporation announced a $30 million fund to provide lower cost borrowing to developers who agree to keep 20% of their units affordable for 15 years. I will push developers in the 47th ward to participate in this program. And I will also support State Rep. Sarah Feigenholtz’s bill HB 5865, which would provide tax incentives for building owners to keep units affordable.
Support amending the zoning code to allow for “granny flats.” The zoning code currently does not allow owners of single-family homes to easily rent out a basement, garage, or carriage house apartment unit. I will work to amend the zoning code to allow homeowners to rent out accessory dwelling units.
Require on site affordable units for large residential projects. For new large residential development projects that require a zoning change, I will mandate that the developers meet the required number of affordable units (typically 10%) either by building them on the site of the project or by buying and preserving existing housing units within the 47th ward.
Develop a master zoning plan for the ward with community input. Too often, the residents of the 47th ward only discuss the future of development in the community when a specific project goes before a community meeting. By that point, it is too late for residents to do more than just negotiate over height or parking. Immediately upon taking office, I will lead a community process to develop a master zoning plan to develop a strategy for the ward in partnership with our community. This plan will include a focus on ensuring affordability throughout the ward.