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New housing department: solution to crisis or election ploy?

Affordable housing has been a need of Chicago residents throughout the City’s history, but that need has reached crisis proportions since the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) demolished many public housing developments between 1996 and 2010 as part of its Plan for Transformation. Subsequent City promises of replacement housing mostly have gone unrealized.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on June 26 proposed the creation of a new Chicago Department of Housing to implement the strategies outlined in the City’s next Five-Year Housing Plan (2019-2023). The mayor is calling on the plan’s steering and advisory committee to create a new and transformative vision for housing as a core component of all neighborhoods.

According to the mayor, the new department will reflect those targeted goals as it addresses Chicago residents’ housing needs. Some wonder, however, if creating the department is a pre-election ploy made necessary by the city’s diminishing stock of affordable housing.

During Mayor Richard M. Daley’s final term in office, 2007 through 2011, the CHA averaged a little more than 840 units of housing built annually. In Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first year of office, that number continued to fall—to 424—to about half of those built the previous year. In the following years, that number dropped to 112, then 88, and then 40 in 2014.

Daley also eliminated the City’s previous Department of Housing, placing its functions under the Department of Planning and Development.

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