Valuing Affordability

Valuing Affordability was a multi-year campaign to create a social, political and economic climate that values affordable housing. Through public awareness, political leadership, and sound policy and resource proposals, it sought to reverse the trend toward scarce and expensive housing.

From the Campaign:

Together, government, nonprofit organizations, and informed business and community citizens can build strong neighborhoods by preserving affordable housing where it exists and creating opportunities for a wide variety of housing in all communities.

Valuing Affordability is based on the belief that affordable housing benefits all residents and institutions and is necessary for a successful city and region; sufficient public resources must be committed to meet real neighborhood needs at living rent levels; strong and affordable neighborhoods require supportive public policies to prevent displacement, promote preservation and encourage production; and affordable housing must be included in all new real estate development.

2001 Conference Highlights:

As a multi-year campaign, Valuing Affordability works to create a climate that values affordable housing and the role it plays in healthy communities. In June of 2001, CRN convened a three-day conference to advance Valuing Affordability’s efforts foster this climate in Chicago and Illinois. Hundreds of advocates, housing developers, activists and elected officials came to explore strategies to further affordable housing through community empowerment, community support, neighborhood preservation, housing set-asides and living rents.

The conference was funded with support of The Woods Fund of Chicago, Northern Trust, LaSalle Banks, Bank One, Harris Trust and Savings Bank, Citibank and the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Caucuses in each of the focus areas ran concurrently:


Neighborhood and resident leaders, organizers and faith based leaders wanting up to date housing information on their neighborhoods were encouraged to attend this tract to learn how to work with their elected and appointed officials, understand zoning procedures, and get an overview on current efforts to preserve and create affordable housing. Participants also had the opportunity to apply new skills in one of the four caucus areas.


Strategies for Affordable Housing Acceptance
Anyone involved in writing, organizing or communicating about affordable housing was encouraged to attend this caucus to lay the groundwork for a powerful public education campaign to build support for affordable housing in the region. The caucus covered successful local and national public education strategies, and identified core housing messages to work locally and regionally.


Property Taxes as an Anti-Displacement Solution
This tract addressing the immediate need for solutions to displacement and gentrification was geared toward building owners, developers, policy makers and community leaders. Sessions explored preserving both homeownership and rental living options via tax policy. Based on the Texas and California models, the caucus proposed to establish an action plan for statewide property tax exemption of all nonprofits creating and preserving affordable housing.


Setting Aside Housing for All
Community developers, advocates, organizers and community leaders, and others concerned with spreading the benefits of real estate boom to all neighborhoods were encouraged to attend this caucus to look at local and national models for the equitable siting of affordable housing.

Living Rents for Strong Communities
Developers, social service providers, organizers and advocates were encouraged to attend this caucus to explore ways to redefine local neighborhood living rents, and to create an action plan to generate resources and policies to sustain affordable rents in their neighborhoods.

See a PDF of the Valuing Affordability Conference brochure.

Campaign Achievements


The 2001 Valuing Affordability conference launched Housing Illinois – an unprecedented coalition seeking to create housing specific communications based on sophisticated market research. On behalf of Housing Illinois, CRN has:

Raised over $250,000 in funding for public awareness

Commissioned a rigorous study of public attitudes and beliefs about affordable housing that combined a large random sample survey of the area’s population with qualitative interviews.

Released a report summarizing key findings of the research

Released a message guide to help advocates, municipal leaders, developers and others deliver effective communications to different segments of the population

In addition, CRN is in the process of:

Releasing and placing major advertising products for a public education advertising campaign

Training Housing Illinois members on effective communications and applying research findings on the ground in several city and regional communities to secure the public endorsements of key elected officials.


Following suggestions raised in the Preserving Neighborhoods tract of the Valuing Affordability conference, CRN cultivated relationships with 5 key leaders in Cook County government, and worked with them to pass 4 major property tax initiatives targeted at preservation in gentrifying communities:

Class 3 Reduction

Expanded Class 9

Class S

Long Time Homeowners Initiative

Legislation first introduced in 2003 is now awaiting signature by the Governor of Illinois. This legislation (SB2329), the Illinois Assisted Housing Preservation Act, will create the opportunity for tenants to purchase their buildings to maintain affordability requirements. This policy is part of a long-term strategy to preserve the large portfolio of rental stock in Chicago and the State of Illinois.


CRN’s Valuing Affordability conference launched the formation of the affordable housing set-aside workgroup, which articulated a city-wide set-aside policy, and laid out a two-pronged strategy that included the zoning process and a city ordinance. For over a year, CRN and its membership pursued the two-pronged strategy, organizing over 1,000 to attend marches and committee meetings, and to testify on behalf of set-asides and inclusionary zoning.

In December of 2002, Alderman Toni Preckwinkle introduced an Affordable Housing Set Aside Ordinance to City Council. Unlike alternate proposals put forward by the Mayor and the city’s Department of Housing, this ordinance would make set-aside provisions mandatory and would be applicable city-wide. Twenty-six Aldermen signed on to the Affordable Housing Set Aside Ordinance, which had garnered enough support to be carried over on the Council’s agenda. Since that time advocates and Aldermanic leaders have been pushing hard to get the support of the Mayor for a mandatory, citywide set-aside ordinance. Recently re-introduced to City Council at a 15% setaside requirement, it is possible it will pass Cit Council during 2004.


Our continued monitoring of housing spending and production in Chicago has tracked the extent to which government dollars serve those most in need of housing. Affordable Chicago was produced in 2003 as an analysis of 1998-2003 City spending and made place-based policy recommendations that can assure that long-term residents can benefit from stable quality housing in their communities.

Campaign Components

Over the next three years, the Valuing Affordability Campaign, a broad coalition made up of advocates, community leaders and policy makers will:

Value Affordability through Public Awareness. The campaign will provide accurate images of people who live in affordable housing, promote community acceptance of the need for a wide variety of housing, and educate political leaders and other decision-makers about the benefits of affordable housing in our neighborhoods.

Value Affordability through Preserving Neighborhoods. The campaign will advocate for long-term property tax reforms that prevent displacement of homeowners and renters. In addition to the current progressive tax proposals—Class 3, Class 9 and Circuit Breaker—Valuing Affordability will work towards a property tax exemption for nonprofit owned multi-family rental housing, and property tax abatement for Section 8 properties.

Value Affordability through Housing Set-Asides. The campaign will ensure that affordable housing is not left out of the region’s real estate housing boom by proposing that 25% of all new development is set-aside as affordable.

Value Affordability through Living Rents. The campaign will propose long-term subsidy strategies that enable developers to build housing for those who need it most. Affordable housing linkage fees, preservation incentives, mandatory housing plans, increased state accountability, and increased federal funding, would allow for truly affordable rents.

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