The Cost of Segregation - Metropolitan Planning Council

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The Cost of Segregation

What we pay in lost income, lives and potential

An Update on the Progress and Next Steps of Our Equitable Future

Dear Partners,

Back in 2014, we started asking a question that is based in the realities of Chicago’s profound segregation: What does it cost us to live so separately from each other by race and income? We partnered with the Urban Institute to answer the question, and by 2017 released our findings: Our segregation costs us $4.4 billion in additional income, 30 percent higher homicides and 83,000 less bachelors degrees.

Our second question points us to the future: What do we do about it? Together with more than 110 advisors and five working groups, we conducted focus groups, interviews, and learned from other regions. We focused on racism as the root cause of segregation, and the result was released in May of this year—Our Equitable Future: A Roadmap for the Chicago Region. Our recommendations fall in two categories: structural change through a racial equity framework, and more than two dozen policy changes that can be enacted over the next two years.

Six months after the release, we are working closely with a number of partners on implementation, excited about the progress so far and focused on the work ahead. Below is a brief update on the progress and impact of the equity roadmap. (You can also download a PDF version of the full update report.)

From our team, thank you for all that you’ve done to shape, lead and inspire the work of creating a more racially equitable Chicago region.

With gratitude,

Metropolitan Planning Council


Dismantle the institutional barriers that create disparities and inequities by race and income

  • Cook County’s newly released strategic plan takes several unprecedented steps: Acknowledging the role that government has played in creating and maintaining racial inequities, becoming a member of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), mandating implicit bias and diversity and inclusion training for staff under the Office of the President, establishing an internal Racial Equity Leadership Council, and formally adopting a racial equity framework to guide its decision-making.
  • The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has signed on with GARE to deepen its commitment to equity. The department’s proposed 2019 budget includes a new position dedicated to advancing racial equity and workforce development through assessments, implementation of racial equity action plans, training, and public engagement. In addition, CDPH will continue work that aims to measure and identify strategies for public health to address structural racism. CDPH’s next Community Health Assessment, which MPC is a partner in conducting, will focus on measuring how well the city’s public health system is advancing health equity.

Building inclusive housing and neighborhoods

  • Ensuring equitable distribution of affordable housing: MPC worked with Alderman Ameya Pawar (47th) on the Affordable Housing Equity ordinance, which he introduced to the City Council with 27 sponsors in July 2018. That same month, the Shriver Center on Poverty Law and the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance (CAFHA) released A City Fragmented, a report that explicitly identified the current mechanics and quantified the impacts of aldermanic prerogative within a civil rights legal framework. And in November 2018, the Shriver Center filed a complaint against the city with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to stop the discriminatory effects of aldermanic prerogative used to block affordable housing in “predominately white, resource rich communities.”
  • Conducting a regional assessment of fair housing: 50 years after the Fair Housing Act, several parties across municipal lines are collaborating for a regional assessment of fair housing (AFH) for the first time. Partners include Cook County, the City of Chicago and their respective housing authorities, along with Enterprise Community Partners, CAFHA, MPC, and 15 additional jurisdictions. The goal of completing a regional AFH is now embedded in Cook County's Policy Roadmap and the City of Chicago's Resiliency Plan and 5 Year Housing Plan.
  • Expanding homeownership: Neighborhood Housing Services, The Resurrection Project and MPC gave recommendations to the Department of Planning and Development in Summer 2017 on establishing a revised version of the New Homes for Chicago program. The City Council passed the Building Neighborhoods and Affordable Homeownership ordinance on October 31, 2018, which establishes $5 million for affordable homes in communities of the South and West Sides, including Englewood, North Lawndale, South Lawndale, Humboldt Park, Garfield Park, and Woodlawn.
  • Providing property tax relief for affordable units across a range of neighborhoods: A statewide bill was introduced in April 2018 to create a new property tax incentive program to encourage investment and create and preserve affordable rental homes in both strong and weak markets. Property owners that commit to providing affordable rents for a minimum period of 10 years will receive the benefit of a reduction in the equalized assessed value of their property after new construction or eligible rehabilitation. The bill will be reintroduced in January 2019, during the start of the new session. The City of Chicago’s new 5 Year Housing Plan also endorses this strategy. This work is being led by Housing Action Illinois, Enterprise Community Partners, and CIC/Preservation Compact. In addition, Alderman Joe Moreno (1st) introduced a resolution in early November 2018 in support of the ordinance.

Targeting economic development and inclusive growth

  • Establishing a graduated real estate transfer tax: Legislation introducing a graduated real estate transfer tax was introduced in late October 2018 by Alderman Walter Burnett, Jr. (27th) together with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to raise funds to fight homelessness, and by Alderman Gilbert Villegas (36th) to cover the cost of replacing lead water service lines to residences and businesses. Center for Tax and Budget Accountability Director of Research Daniel Kay Hertz and MPC Vice President Marisa Novara wrote an op-ed, which was published by the Chicago Sun-Times, on the need for a graduated real estate transfer tax to address Chicago's 120,000 affordable housing unit shortfall. Danielle Gallet, who manages MPC's water supply program, testified at the City Council’s Finance Committee, stating the organization's support of developing viable and equitable revenue streams (such as Alderman Villegas’ proposal) to help fund lead service line replacement.

Creating jobs and building wealth

  • Helping local governments build the capacity they need to thrive by equipping smaller and lower-income communities to more effectively address their unique challenges: To help communities throughout the Chicago region prosper, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) Local Technical Assistance program has been working to build local governments’ capacity for solving increasingly complex problems. As part of a new demonstration project, for example, CMAP will place Embedded Staff Planners (ESPs) in a limited number of capacity-constrained communities to provide tailored technical assistance. In partnership with MPC, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, universities, and others, this initial effort is meant to provide proof of concept for a potential broader ESP program.
  • Build wealth early through matched child savings accounts: Heartland Alliance and the Illinois Asset Building Group is working with the State Treasurer’s Office to craft legislation. A draft is expected after the 2019 local elections.
  • Adopting a city earned income tax credit (EITC): An expanded EITC is under study by the Mayor’s Resilient Families Task Force, of which MPC is a member. The task force's report, including recommendations for a guaranteed basic income pilot and a city EITC with periodic payments, is due early 2019.

Creating equity in education

  • Create strong schools across Chicago neighborhoods: After holding community meetings about racial equity to engage community members across the city, Chicago United for Equity recruited candidates for Local School Council races, finding that those who attended one campaign training session and received one-on-one advising from CUE won at a rate of 89 percent, compared to 64 percent for non-participants. These new LSC members are now focused on racial equity across nine neighborhoods.

Reforming the criminal justice system

  • Breaking the link between people with low incomes and incarceration, such as by eliminating cash bail: The Criminal and Traffic Assessment Act—House Bill 4594 of the 100th General Assembly—was signed into law in August 2018. It reduces the burden of court costs, fines, and fees on Illinoisans who can’t afford to pay them by providing a waiver or fees based on a sliding scale. Aditi Singh, Staff Attorney and Policy Analyst at the Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice, is leading this work with the Coalition to End Money Bond.

Recommendations added since May 2018

  • Conducting a universal mobility study: MPC convened a steering committee which consists of paratransit users, transit providers, disability rights advocates and ADA experts. In partnership with the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy, MPC has been building a measure of supply and demand for transportation for residents with disabilities. The Harris School initiated analysis in October 2018 and will deliver a report to MPC by December 2018.
  • Ensuring affordable and equitable water rates: MPC, along with its partners Elevate Energy and the Illinois Indiana Sea Grant, are conducting first-of-its-kind research in Northeastern Illinois to identify the extent to which affordability in water rates is impacting community members, and what communities can do to support those who face challenges in affording drinking water.

Our Partners

Creating and enacting the equity roadmap has benefited from more than 110 advisors and implementation partners from throughout the Chicago region.

In some cases, MPC is working in partnership with these groups, in others they are the leading force and we applaud and support their efforts.

Here's a partial list:

Center for Tax & Budget Accountability Illinois Asset Building Group
Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice Illinois Indiana Sea Grant
Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University
Chicago Coalition for the Homeless Metropolitan Mayors Caucus
Chicago Department of Public Health My Block, My Hood, My City
Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning Neighborhood Housing Services
Chicago United for Equity Resilient Families Task Force
Community Investment Corporation/Preservation Compact Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law
Coalition to End Money Bond The Resurrection Project
Cook County Office of the President Metropolitan Mayors Caucus
Elevate Energy The University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy
Elevated Chicago, including its 17 member organizations  
Enterprise Community Partners  
Government Alliance on Race & Equity  
Heartland Alliance  
Housing Action Illinois  


Since May, MPC has hosted and partnered with other organizations on 10 public events that have amplified the equity roadmap and drawn more attention to the work we all can do to help create a more equitable and inclusive Chicago region. From our recent collaboration with Victory Gardens Theater centered on themes highlighted in Ike Holter's new play Rightlynd to a film screening of '63 Boycott with Kartemquin Films in honor of the 55th anniversary of the historic student protest in Chicago, these events have exposed issues of equity and humanized people's lived experiences.

MPC is eager to continue the new collaborations we've been able to forge during these last six months, especially in locations and formats that take us out of our office and downtown Chicago. Have an idea for an event? Email us at

Media Coverage

One of MPC's 2018 goals was to raise awareness of potential solutions to the pressing issues facing the Chicago region and those across the nation. This year, nearly 250 stories about the Our Equitable Future roadmap and its emphasis on racial equity have been published in media outlets across the U.S., potentially reaching more than 480 million people.

Next Steps

We commit to continue tracking progress on all 27 of the recommendations outlined in Our Equitable Future, as well as those we add along the way, and holding ourselves, partners and government accountable for action. In addition, we and our partners will prioritize advancing key elements of our equity agenda in early 2019, including:

  • Vote Equity 2019: MPC will continue to work in coalition with five citywide organizations to ensure that racial equity is a key issue in the upcoming 2019 municipal elections. MPC brings key research and communications capacity to this collective action initiative led by organizers and researchers. Ultimately, this project will support Chicagoans in being informed and engaged voters, guided by a clearly defined vision for racial equity through a nonpartisan voter guide.
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Framework: MPC will work with Elevated Chicago partners to develop a diversity, equity and inclusion framework geared towards leaders and institutions in the built environment. This includes the development of a multi-unit curriculum and training program to instill best practices that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion both internally and externally. A pilot is anticipated in early 2019.
  • Race and Equity Curriculum: MPC is developing curriculum for 9th- and 10th-grade students across Chicago. These resources can be used to engage youth around social justice issues in the Chicago region, and learn how systems of racism and oppression have contributed to issues of racial and economic segregation. This tool will create a platform for discussion and will highlight student voices in identifying ways to address key social justice issues around education, affordable housing, transportation access, economic justice, and criminal justice. We're currently exploring potential partnerships for this project, as well as the possibility of including a unit on Tonika Lewis Johnson's Folded Map project.
  • Community Impact Assessment Toolkit: In partnership with the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, MPC is working with community partners to create a comprehensive toolkit that will help elevate community voice and spur productive dialogue to create more equitable development outcomes. It will consist of four key components: a neighborhood-specific data fact sheet, a detailed neighborhood risk index, an assessment questionnaire, and customized set of policy recommendations. These various resources will help inform community stakeholders of their current conditions and proactively guide them through the process of thinking through how a new or proposed development or community investment might best be leveraged in order to support community goals. We plan to launch a pilot of the tool in early 2019.  

Our Funders

"One of the biggest things holding Chicago back from being all that it can be is the inexcusable inequity that continues to exist. This equity roadmap has created a real opportunity for us to work together and heal some of the divides in our communities." —Dr. Helene Gayle, President & CEO, The Chicago Community Trust

MPC couldn't do any of its work without the generous support of the foundations and individuals funding these crucial equity initiatives. We are  grateful to The Chicago Community Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for funding this research from inception to implementation. We are honored to have received additional support from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bowman C. Lingle Trust, CIBC,  Conant Family Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners, Ford Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, and U.S. Bank. And we look forward to the work we'll all do together in the months and years ahead to help the Chicago region move forward along its path to equity.

More Info

For more information about our equity roadmap and how you can get involved, visit

For more information about initiatives related to this work, please contact: Marisa Novara, Vice President, Metropolitan Planning Council, 312.863.6044,

For more information about funding our work, please contact: Janet Myers, Vice President of Philanthropy, Metropolitan Planning Council, 312.863.6010,

Metropolitan Planning Council 140 S. Dearborn St.
Suite 1400
Chicago, Ill. 60603
312 922 5616

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For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

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