How Chicago's affordable housing system perpetuates city's long history of segregation

Government-backed affordable housing in Chicago has largely been confined to majority-Black neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty over the last two decades, a design that has perpetuated the city's long history of segregation.

As the neighborhoods faced rising divestment, gun violence and food deserts, the lack of affordable housing in other parts of the city restricted many people of color from leaving.

But now, using its largest pot of federal housing funding, Chicago wants to chart a corrective path by aggressively pushing for more affordable homes in high-income, well-resourced areas, which housing experts say would unlock previously unavailable opportunities for communities of color.

Chicago Housing Commissioner Marisa Novara said the city has tweaked its qualified allocation plan to encourage developers to submit proposals for new affordable housing in parts of the city that are higher-income and amenity rich and that have traditionally excluded lower-income people and people of color. She said the city is prepared to pay more to acquire land in such areas.

The city last month published the results of a self-conducted racial equity impact assessment, which examined how different racial and ethnic groups are or will be affected by existing or proposed programs, policies or decisions.

While such assessments aren't new, Chicago says it's the first time a city has actively taken stock of its own racial equity when it comes to federal dollars from the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, the largest source of funding for new affordable housing in the U.S.

The assessment revealed that the city's low-income tax program has developed or preserved about 10,000 low-income units since 2000, with 60 percent of the funding going to high-poverty areas.

How Chicago's affordable housing system perpetuates city's long history of segregation, Safia Samee Ali, NBC News, April 4, 2021, available here

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