The NIMBYs seem to be winning. I expected a lot more fallout from the study on aldermanic prerogative and affordable housing in the City of Chicago, particularly since specific aldermen were quoted talking about their powers. My own alderman was on WBEZ referring to wards being “a personal fiefdom.” Instead, there was an article in the Chicago Tribune and one in Block City Chicago, and I have not seen it picked up by anyone else (yet).
It’s a shame because the in-depth analysis of zoning policies today bear a striking resemblance to those of the 1930s and 1960s where aldermen overtly discussed how to keep African American residents segregated in one specific part of the city. Today, the language is much more covert, but the motivations remain the same.
The study said:
75% of the city’s land zoned for multifamily use is outside majority-white wards, so 25% of the city’s land zoned for multifamily use is inside majority-white wards.
98% of affordable multifamily housing is built outside majority-white wards, so 2% of affordable multifamily housing is built inside majority-white wards.
This means that only 2% of the 25% of the land zoned for multi-family housing is inside majority-white wards.
The city owns 56 acres of land in low-poverty, majority-white areas. None of that land was used to build affordable housing.
93% of families with children at or below the poverty line are families of color, and Black and Latinx families are disproportionately affected.
This is how the racial composition of each ward is “preserved.” “Outsiders” are not permitted to move in to these majority-white wards. These are the wards that receive more economic investment, amenities, and police officers. The city actively reinforces segregation and encourages continued deterioration of once vibrant neighborhoods that now have lost schools, grocery stores, and jobs.
The study suggested that in order to bring about change, there needs to be comprehensive planning and oversight with clear procedures and protocols regarding the construction of new affordable housing to make it the responsibility of all fifty wards in Chicago, not a select few. Aldermen and the mayor will not be keen to overhaul existing practices. Certain constituents will not be in favor of it because they are the same ones who have actively blocked affordable housing all along. However, the right mayoral candidate might be in a position to do something about making Chicago a model city. We need to make this an issue in the election because the next mayor needs to work to save this city.