TIF resolution approved

By Meghan Keyes

After being held in committee for 10 months, the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance is inching its way toward potentially providing $100 million per year in affordable housing development and creating 3,000 jobs during the construction.

As previously reported in The Chronicle on Sept. 13, the proposal would designate 20 percent of tax increment financing funds to develop affordable housing in blighted areas. TIF funds are collected within designated TIF districts and are part of property taxes. The funds collected within a district are then spent within that area, supposed to help rehabilitate neighborhoods and create economic opportunity.

The ordinance would be the first resolution to allocate TIF funds to be spent on specific types of projects—in this instance, affordable housing. A developer creates a project and proposes it to the Community Development Commission. The commissioners are appointed by the mayor.

Sweet Home Chicago was introduced and referred to the Housing and Finance committees in March and was approved on Nov. 15. It was expected to be voted on during the Nov. 17 City Council meeting but was not heard.

“We agreed to make a couple amendments some aldermen requested at the [finance and housing] committee hearing,” said Julie Dworkin, director of policy at CCH. “There was a bunch of back and forth, and Alderman [Walter] Burnett (27th Ward) and Alderman [Ricardo] Munoz (22nd Ward) became convinced they could not keep that commitment because of some parliamentary moves.”

Dworkin said the aldermen did not want to break their promise to their colleagues. She also said the group was going back and forth with the city.

“We presented something to them [on Nov. 17] that seemed like we were going to find a middle ground,” Dworkin said.

The city and the group did not find a resolution but had another meeting on Nov. 19, where the city passed an alternate version of the ordinance the group does not support. Both versions will be voted on Dec. 8.

The ordinance has the committed vote of 27 aldermen and backing from 66 community organizations, advocacy groups and labor unions.

According to Dworkin, Mayor Richard M. Daley is opposed to the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance but it is unknown if he would veto it.

“I don’t think we would have been so willing to back off if we didn’t feel we were getting close to a negotiated ordinance, and that’s our best chance of avoiding a veto,” Dworkin said.

Among the backers is City Clerk Miguel del Valle, who urged the City Council on Nov. 3 to move the legislation out of committee and vote on it.

“[Del Valle] believes affordable housing is important for everyone,” said Kristine Williams, spokeswoman for the city clerk’s office. “The ordinance was stalled, and he believed it needed to come up for a debate. It’s what a majority of the city council members wanted to do.”

In the community, the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness supports the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance. The alliance’s mission is to create, support and sustain effective strategies to end homelessness, according to its website.

“We support it because we believe there should be more resources in the city directed toward building and maintaining affordable housing,” said Nicole Amling, director of policy at the Alliance. “I think there is a lot of tension in the city whenever you talk about TIF funding. Unfortunately this very good cause has been held up because of the controversy.”

Controversial or not, Dworkin said the end is in sight, and the ordinance will at least hear a vote soon—possibly approved in December.

“If the majority of council members are ready to vote on something or calling for something to be voted on, they have a right to be heard—that should be heard and listened to,” Williams said.

Overall, supporters of the Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance remain positive and focused on what could be the results of the resolution if it is passed.

“In the first year alone, there could be millions of dollars available to create and maintain affordable housing,” Amling said. “For the people we serve who are struggling to stay housed in an economic downtime … it could be a real opportunity for more housing.”