MPC's Marisa Novara provided testimony to the Committee on Housing and Real Estate regarding Chicago's 5 year housing plan on December 6th, 2018.
Thank you Chairman Moore and members of the Committee. My name is Marisa Novara and I am Vice President of the Metropolitan Planning Council.
We need more sources of affordable housing at the local level.
I’d like to repeat the many words of appreciation made by others about how far this plan has come from previous 5 year Housing Plans. As an example, we noted that in the 2019-2023 plan, the words segregation, race, equity and equitable were used 5, 4, 4 and 8 times respectively. In the 2014-2018 plan, they were used 0, 0, 0 and 0 times respectively. I note this because acknowledgement matters. Acknowledgement of both history and present day matters.
However we also do have strong reservations about what is lacking from this plan, specifically that staff of the new Department of Housing need more resources to carry out their mandate. Our recent analysis with the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability found that the city spends 3/10 of 1 percent of its budget on affordable housing. While the city argued for different numbers, if we use their figures we still only get to 1.5 percent.
As the Chicago Rehab Network and others have argued, we lost an opportunity over the past decade as we lowered corporate fund contributions to affordable housing to keep the housing budget level rather than increasing it or even holding corporate contributions steady to keep pace with needs.
We need more sources of affordable housing at the local level. One way to do so is to return to former levels of corporate contributions, another is through a graduated real estate transfer tax. We modeled that this new tax would generate another $150 million in new funds annually, while 95 percent of those in a real estate transactions would actually pay less than they do today. Only the highest value transactions would pay more.
Our reservations about the plan are not a repudiation of the efforts of people in this room, specifically Deputy Commissioner Simpkins and his staff who I know to be deeply committed to affordable housing. It is to encourage this body and the next administration to revisit this budget and adequately fund our housing needs, because budgets reflect our values. Finally, all plans of this magnitude should be guided by a racial equity framework.