Cardinal calls for law to require more affordable housing

By Liam Ford, staff reporter
Chicago Tribune
June 29, 2001

Cardinal Francis George on Thursday got behind a push to reform property
taxation in Illinois to encourage low-income housing and pass a law in
Chicago requiring a quarter of all new housing developments to be set aside
for affordable housing.

George, the leader of Cook and Lake County's 2.3 million Roman Catholics,
endorsed the proposals in a speech to a three-day conference sponsored by
the Chicago Rehab Network, an umbrella group of 43 nonprofit housing
organizations. The conference kicks off what the group envisions as a
long-term push to change Illinois and Chicago laws regarding affordable
housing, including property-tax reform and housing development set-asides,
following models already in place in cities such as Boston, Boulder, Colo.,
and Santa Fe.

Ald. Ray Suarez (31st), chairman of the City Council's Committee on Housing
and Real Estate, attended George's speech, and said afterward he believes
the Rehab Network's proposals have "merit" and deserve consideration by the

George said that with a building boom going on at the same time the Chicago
Housing Authority is tearing down all its high-rise public housing, Chicago
has a greater chance to reshape itself since the 1950s. Beginning in the
1950s, thousands of black Chicagoans were segregated from others through the
creation of the CHA high-rises, George noted.

"It would be a great shame, it would be a social sin, if we made the
mistakes again, 50 years later, that were made in the 1950s," George told
more than 200 people at the downtown conference.

Although state and local governments have been doing much to encourage the
creation of housing, more must be done, George said.

"Going beyond incentives, and requiring that developers set aside a certain
number of units for affordable housing, such proposals would help preserve
affordability and prevent displacement in communities," George said,
likening the set-asides to zoning requirements for commercial developments
such as landscaping, parking and pedestrian access.

Other focuses of the initiative include advocating incentives to preserve
rental housing and property-tax breaks for buildings participating in the
federal Section 8 housing voucher program, and a public awareness
advertising campaign.

Aside from the members of the Rehab Network, numerous community and civic
groups also are participating in the initiative.

More about housing set-asides
More about property tax reform
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