Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Sun Times TIF Tip - Location, Location, Location! Affordable Housing

Allison Davis* is an old timey radical and lawyer who makes millions of dollars from government funded real estate opportunities, by dint of his earnest GOO-Goo associations. Several years ago, a little boy was crushed to death by a rusted gate in a property that the hand-wringers made available to his son Cullen. That was an affordable housing moment. It has been pretty quiet on that rusted gate story of late - news embargo, the Progressive Memory Hole.

Allison Davis, of the Judson Miner connection to the halcyon days of good government when Clarence McClain shooed folks in to the Mayor Harold Washington's beefy presence and Forrest Claypool was knocking the cow pies off of his Timberlands and Slim Coleman was ducking Eddie Vrdolyak, has been larding his jeans with bucks in high-minded but essentially filthy real estate deals. Another Faulknerian sentence!

Progressives seem to steal with jolly impugnity and have a compliant news media ready to parse their coin scoopings followed by news embargoes. Editorial Boards are composed of people who believe that the Easter Bunny, Ralph Martire and Spending Dollars I Don't Have are Economic First Principles - Here is Your Sun Times Editorial Board not asking Candidate Obama anything back in 2007-2008.

Section 8 Housing is made available for poor folks in neighborhoods where tax-payers ( black, white, Latino) attempt to eke out a living and send their children to Catholic, Lutheran, Dutch or Charter Schools. Wrightwood, a black working class neighborhood, formerly known as St. Thomas More Parish, was until very recently indistinguishable from white Beverly, Mount Greenwood and Morgan Park in terms of quality of life - good schools and no crime. The empirical fact known to all, but the people who occupy editorial boards and who could care less about the realities facing the shrinking Middle Class, is that Section 8 Housing brings a spike in crime (violent and property).

There is also a Federal Agency dedicated to Housing America's poor - Housing and Urban Development - that makes foreclosures available and hosts sites that make affordable housing a warm and welcoming experience! Click my post title.

TIFs has been a political strawdog for Progressives. TIFs are meant to spur economic development in areas where the poor are underserved.

Save the hand-wringing.

Until Section 8 Housing is featured in areas where diversity is embraced and never realized - areas where people actually watch WTTW.

July 6, 2010

For years, just a fraction of Chicago's fat TIF funds has gone toward affordable housing -- despite widespread demand and need.

And when you drill deeper into that nebulous term "affordable," only a fraction of that fraction has been spent on housing for the city's poorest, according to an analysis of TIF spending from 1995 to 2007 by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.

An ordinance to help chip away at that imbalance will go before a City Council committee Wednesday for a possible vote.

It deserves the City Council's full support, though some adjustments are needed to make it more workable.

We heartily endorse the broad goals of this ordinance, which would dedicate 20 percent of annual TIF funds toward affordable housing, because it targets scarce public dollars where they are needed most. Less than 10 percent of TIF dollars now go to affordable housing, according to the coalition's analysis.

The ordinance also could help boost confidence in the city's maligned Tax Increment Financing program, one of Mayor Daley's main economic development tools. In the city's 159 TIF districts, the amount of property tax dollars that goes to schools, parks and other services is frozen. Then, as property values rise, the extra tax revenue collected is set aside in a separate account to finance other public and private ventures in the name of economic development.

TIFs frequently are criticized for siphoning money from schools and the like to subsidize questionable investments that get little oversight. With this ordinance, the public would at least know how a portion of TIF funds each year would be spent.

Still, some reporting requirements in the ordinance are too weak. Verifying family income for affordable housing eligibility -- crucial to the program's integrity -- shouldn't be left solely up to developers.

Under the proposed ordinance, 20 percent of TIF dollars would be dedicated to building or preserving affordable housing, including converting foreclosed properties into affordable housing. The annual requirement would be citywide, not 20 percent per TIF district.

For rental housing, half the apartments in each development would be for families earning 50 percent or less of the area median income, which is $38,000 a year for a family of four. Citywide, 40 percent of all affordable apartments would go for families earning even less, $23,000 a year.

While well intended, we fear requiring half the rental units to be affordable might discourage development. In the end, because of market forces, most of these projects will end up 100 percent affordable, rather than including a mix of incomes. This makes the projects more expensive, harder to finance and could produce projects that don't enhance property values in a TIF district, affordable housing developers tell us.

Targeting 30 percent of units for families making $38,000 makes more business sense. We'd also lower slightly the 40 percent target for the poorest families.

We strongly recommend changing the homeownership rules. Under the proposed ordinance, 50 percent of for-sale units in a development would be for families making less than $60,000 a year. Developers tell us few families in that income range can afford to buy and maintain a home. Plus, the restriction could make the entire development prohibitively expensive.

To improve the ordinance, we'd like to see the city commit not to overly concentrate affordable developments in challenged neighborhoods. Many TIF districts are no longer blighted and are in need of affordable housing to shelter families that would otherwise be priced out.

The ordinance, pushed by a coalition of housing advocates, community groups and labor, and backed by at least 19 aldermen, is on the right track. As swaths of the city have been devastated by foreclosure and other housing subsidies are stretched thin, Chicago needs a firm commitment to produce more affordable housing.

But it must be done carefully, so it enhances development rather than hampers it.
Save the hand-wringing, this sounds like prelude to a public screwing, by Allison Davis and other Cadillac Commies. Just saying.

Nota Bene! Sun Times Investigative Reporter - Tim Novak covered Allison Davis and Cullen Davis like quality wallpaper. In fact, this helot lamented the long absence of Tim Novak's powerful work over the last summer and fall. Here is a link to my references to Mr. Novak's great work ( amended 8:53 AM 6/17/2009). I apologize for this inadvertent slight of Chicago's most tenacious news pitbull.

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