The jobs-housing puzzle: Why an increase or decrease in jobs is a regional issue - Metropolitan Planning Council

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The jobs-housing puzzle: Why an increase or decrease in jobs is a regional issue

Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning

If 100 new jobs are created in a community, how many of those will go to residents in the community?

This is the third of five posts in our "jobs-housing puzzle" series. Every day thousands of people commute to and from each of Chicago’s neighborhoods and suburbs, but only a small minority spends the work day in the same community that it wakes up in. Overwhelmingly people do not live and work in the same place. In this blog series, we’ll cover current statistics on where people are and where they’re going, and what that means for the communities in which they live and work. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Creating jobs in a neighborhood will not necessarily help the people who live there.

Developers and government officials like to boast about how many jobs a project will create. But we need to consider that the jobs created mostly will not go to that community. For example, statistics suggest that if 100 jobs were created in the 11th Ward, located in the Bridgeport area on Chicago’s South Side, only eight or nine of those would go to people living in that Ward.

That does not mean the project will not benefit people—those other jobs are being filled by someone. But if the local alderman expects to reduce unemployment in his or her ward, he or she may be disappointed.

In some cases Community Benefit Agreements and other arrangements require local hiring. However, requirements for local hiring, as with other hiring requirements and quotas, are not without critics. And while communities may create some jobs through these agreements, access to job opportunities in the wider region will probably be necessary to tackle concentrated unemployment.

Access to jobs requires access to more of the region.

Since most people do not live close to their jobs, most unemployed people probably do not live near most of the potential jobs they could get. Rather than being concerned with creating more jobs in areas with low incomes or high unemployment, it may be more important to make sure that those areas are not isolated from the rest of the city and metro area. This means making sure that people in all neighborhoods have access to fast and reliable transit—since this will open up their opportunities for jobs.

Bus Rapid Transit is one example of how transit improvements can increase access to jobs, as discussed in this previous blog post.

When new jobs become available or old jobs disappear, that change affects people across region. One business’ workers might be on the south side, the north side or all the way out in the suburbs. People need to be able to get around the region quickly and efficiently if we want to match our workers and our jobs.


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