Testimony in Support of the Connected Communities Ordinance - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Testimony in Support of the Connected Communities Ordinance

July 20, 2022
TO: Chicago City Council
RE: Support for Connected Communities Ordinance (O2022-2000)

Effective, safe, reliable transit is one of our City’s greatest assets, and every
Chicago resident deserves ready access to the thriving communities it creates. For
this reason, the Metropolitan Planning Council is proud to support the
Connected Communities Ordinance (O2022-2000), which brings these benefits
to more residents citywide and creates an economically stronger Chicago.
Recognizing that dense, livable communities around transit stations are a priority
for Chicago, City Council passed ordinances in 2013 and 2015 to promote
transit oriented development. Since 2015, 325 projects, producing nearly 90,000
housing units citywide, have been built in transit served locations.
Unfortunately, the benefits of TOD have not been shared among all Chicagoans.
Between 2016 and 2018, 90% of TOD developments were concentrated in
downtown, near north, and northwest side neighborhoods. Large swaths of the
south and west sides saw no TOD developments. Additionally, TOD occurred in
gentrifying areas: areas with new TOD developments saw gains in white
population and losses in Black population, while only 6.5% of units built in
transit served locations were affordable under the Affordable Requirements

The Connected Communities ordinance puts TOD in the reach of more
Chicagoans by expanding the incentives and facilitating more balanced
development. In the first place, the ordinance expands where TOD incentives can
be applied to within ½ mile from rail stations and ¼ mile of high frequency bus
routes. This change dramatically expands the amount of TOD-eligible parcels in
Chicago. Presently, TOD incentives are available to 31 million square feet of
parcels across the City; under Connected Communities, that number increases to
402 million square feet, an increase of nearly 1,200%.

Of the communities that have the most area eligible for density bonuses under
Connected Communities, 11 of 20 are majority BIPOC south and west side
communities. The 95th Street corridor between Cottage Grove and Halsted
provides an example of how the ordinance can accelerate development initiatives
in South and West side communities. The city is already leading a
comprehensive, stakeholder-engaged planning process to cultivate transitoriented development along this critical corridor. Connected Communities
provides new incentives for developing underutilized parcels along 95th street,
which can build a strong pipeline of projects connecting the Metra station to the
east, the Pace Pulse line to the west and the 95th street Red Line terminal as the
center anchor.

In addition to expanding incentives, this ordinance also creates more incentives
for affordable development in TOD zones. It does so by tying development
bonuses to building affordable housing. Presently, developments near transit can
take advantage of density bonuses without any special attention to affordability.
In Connected Communities, planned development changes will be required to
build more affordability in order to get access to density bonuses. This ensures
that TOD becomes part of the solution of creating affordability, rather than part
of the gentrification problem. Connected Communities also provides additional
tools for developers to meet affordability goals: for instance, developers can
build more affordable units in place of parking that residents don’t use when
they live near effective transit.

By expanding where TOD can happen and building more affordability into
Chicago’s TOD ordinance, Connected Communities makes great strides in
making TOD available to Chicagoans who currently don’t benefit. And as an
added benefit, the ordinance is a major jobs engine. MPC estimates that projects
in TOD areas have already created 15,000 jobs per year for the past 5 years. And
we can expect an additional 50,000 jobs per year in construction, retail,
manufacturing, and related industries as a result of this new ordinance. This is a
major win for employment, affordability, and thriving communities.
Thank you for your attention to this important ordinance. MPC urges your
support for Connected Communities.

Darlene Oliver Hightower, J.D.
President and CEO

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