THE PLAN FOR SAFE & AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Everyone in Chicago deserves to have a roof over their head. That’s not just the right thing to do morally, it’s a smart approach to keeping our neighborhoods safe and strong. We create public safety by directly addressing the poverty, economic, racial and environmental injustice that creates disorder in many Chicago communities. This will allow us to promote student achievement, and grow the jobs and resources Chicago needs. The cornerstone of that vision is our ability to confront our city’s housing crisis.
Homelessness has long been a problem in Chicago, and families have always struggled to make the rent. But Chicagoans know that these days, making rent or the mortgage payment is harder than it’s been for a very long time. Here in Chicago, homelessness is up 12% since 2019. It is a moral crisis that on freezing January nights, we have 1,500 Chicagoans sleeping out in the cold. It is an outrage that one quarter of renters pay more than half of their paychecks just to make the rent, with little left over for other necessities. And it is an injustice that one-in-four Black students in Chicago Public Schools experience homelessness at least once during their lives.
The status quo is unacceptable, and the people of our city deserve better. The bottom line is this: We need more housing for those at every income level, so that from public housing to affordable housing, Chicagoans can afford to stay in our city and raise families here. We need a City Hall that will “Bring Chicago Home,” delivering real funding to house the unhoused and combat homelessness. And we need a Chicago that keeps pathways to home ownership alive, so that Chicago’s homes aren’t all purchased by private equity firms and the wealthy few.
Any serious housing plan needs to start with a real vision for getting unhoused Chicagoans into safe, stable homes. Chicago has over 65,000 people experiencing homelessness, and for decades, the city has failed to invest in solutions to get people off the street. That is a moral outrage. Worse still, because more than 75% of people experiencing homelessness are temporarily staying with others, too many are not eligible for federal housing assistance under current guidelines.
Study after study is clear: Stable housing reduces mental illness, prevents crime, and ends the tragedy of our neighbors dying from exposure to the elements. This needs to be a top priority of City Hall. We need real, sustained investment in proven solutions like supportive housing – a model that combines deeply subsidized housing with supportive services like health care – mental health care, and connections to education and job training.
A Brandon Johnson administration would:
🔵 Support the Bring Chicago Home campaign and City Council ordinance to increase the real estate transfer tax on properties over $1 million to create a dedicated revenue stream in Chicago for permanent housing and services to address homelessness.
🔵 Stop deferring to aldermanic privilege when it comes to creating supportive housing. Alderpeople should be involved in development and zoning decisions in their wards, but they should not have sole veto power over affordable housing developments that serve our lowest income residents. We need more housing at every income level across the city.
🔵 Reform the Chicago Zoning Ordinance to allow supportive housing and shelters by right. We cannot afford to require additional zoning approvals for these housing types during a housing crisis.
🔵 Create pathways to GED achievement for the unhoused as a necessary component of wraparound services that these people and families need. Connecting residents to education is an essential component of permanently ending homelessness.
Hold CHA Accountable
A major cause of the shortage of affordable housing in Chicago is the ineffectiveness of the Chicago Housing Authority. The CHA has failed in its commitment to build the housing that it promised to residents more than 20 years ago. In 2000, the CHA embarked on a plan to tear down 39,000 public housing units and replace them with 25,000 units. Two decades later, residents are still waiting to see that promise fulfilled. Lots sit vacant while thousands of Chicagoans freeze on the street.
That is unconscionable, and that is why Brandon Johnson will:
🔵 Hold the CHA accountable by immediately enacting a freeze on the transfer of CHA land to non-housing uses. We cannot allow public land intended for housing to be auctioned off to the highest bidder or to political allies.
🔵 Withhold funding for any CHA project that does not lead directly to housing until the Authority makes significant progress towards filling vacancies and develops a plan to fulfill its public housing unit commitments in new developments.
🔵 Create a homeless preference at CHA which prioritizes people experiencing homelessness for Housing Choice Vouchers and site-based units.
🔵 Create a transparent, searchable and easily updatable waiting list.
🔵 Request a quarterly report from CHA to the City Council and mayor, detailing the number of new people housed, the average time it takes to bring a unit back online, whether they are meeting the National Occupancy Standard of 97%, and a report on inventory.
🔵 Order an independent appraisal of the value of all CHA land.
🔵 Perform an audit of the Plan for Transformation and Moving to Work Programs to ascertain how many people these programs housed and displaced, and how many units went undelivered.
These simple steps would drastically improve the availability of supportive and public housing, and help get thousands of Chicagoans into safe, stable housing.
Building Affordable Housing
For too long, the City of Chicago has relied on cycles of gentrification and disinvestment to develop neighborhoods. The City has recently made more changes to this practice and continues to invest in affordable housing, but for too many residents it feels like too little, too late.
In 2021, the City of Chicago put up $290 million for affordable housing production and preservation. But that money ended up going to build houses and condominiums the average Chicagoan cannot afford.
While the median household income in our city is $62,000, 40% of the units the city calls “affordable” are for incomes higher than that threshold.
Luxury housing developments do not need public subsidies. Chicago should focus its housing investments where they will make the most difference: building units for regular Chicagoans and housing specifically for our city’s lowest income residents.
A Johnson administration would:
🔵 Build on the current work of the City's Department of Housing to develop additional financing tools that can help make housing more affordable to all.
🔵 Preserve the City’s Single Room Occupancy buildings, instead of letting them be converted into upscale apartments, by committing ongoing funding for SRO preservation.
🔵 Reduce the cost to develop affordable housing by waiving fees for new affordable housing buildings, and fast-track zoning and building approvals so that affordable housing projects jump to the front of the queue.
🔵 Instruct the buildings department to review regulatory changes that may make it cheaper to build multi-story housing without compromising safety.
🔵 Form partnerships with community land trusts, non-profit and mission-driven developers, and small landlords in communities of color.
🔵 Redevelop and preserve the City’s existing stock of 2-4 flats as affordable housing, and encouraging investment in 2-to-4 flat units.
🔵 Create updated accessibility standards that apply to all new construction, rehabilitation, or other forms of building permit.
🔵 Expand the implemented pilot projects that charge deconversion fees near the 606 Trail in Wicker Park and Humboldt Park, and in Pilsen. These pilots must be expanded citywide in an attempt to curb the conversion of multi-unit properties into luxury single-family homes.
🔵 Discourage vacant units and reduce real estate speculation in low-income communities, and create mechanisms that give renters the opportunity to purchase their homes.
🔵 Work with existing homeowners who are behind on their mortgages or maintenance to rehabilitate those buildings and create new affordable rental units in the process.
🔵 Transfer vacant properties facing tax foreclosure to community-based non-profit developers who can preserve them as affordable housing.
🔵 Expand opportunities for smart, sustainable housing development along transit lines by directing the planning department to look comprehensively at residential zoning in the city to figure out if there are opportunities for middle-income, market-rate housing that are currently restricted by zoning.
🔵 Expand the city's Additional Dwelling Unit pilot to all areas of the city to allow people to create units in basements, attics and coach houses.
🔵 Create a Chicago Social Housing Pilot Program to fund, acquire and/or develop mixed-income social housing buildings in desirable locations close to transit, parks and recreation, capped at 30% of a tenant’s income going towards rent.
Chicago has the resources to make affordable housing a reality for all Chicagoans. Brandon Johnson is the candidate for mayor with the courage to act.
There are 35,000 evictions filed in Cook County each year. Each eviction, in which families are uprooted from their homes, is a tragedy. The City can step up to prevent evictions, keep families in their homes, and ensure landlords behave responsibly.
As mayor, Brandon Johnson will work to prevent evictions, and:
🔵 Push for rent stabilization legislation at the state level to end unreasonable rent increases in Chicago, while providing property tax abatements that could provide more stability for both renters and smaller, family-owned buildings and properties.
🔵 Enact a Just Cause Eviction ordinance to ensure continuity of tenancy for tenants in good standing.
🔵 Enforce City and State bans on discriminating against potential tenants based on source of income and the Just Housing ordinances’ protections by funding fair housing testers to root out discriminatory practices and educate landlords and tenants about laws banning source of income and criminal history discrimination.
🔵 Fully fund the City’s Right to Counsel program beyond its pilot phase, which provides funds for free legal services for tenants facing eviction. Using City resources to keep tenants in their homes and prevent homelessness saves the City money and resources in the long run.
🔵 Require proactive building inspections once every five years. Landlords would then be required to fix any health or safety violations within a reasonable time frame, reducing tenant exposure to harmful chemicals like lead paint.
🔵 Publish an online landlord registry, allowing tenants to see information about the building’s owner, contact information and outstanding violations at their building.
These protections will keep tenants safe, in their homes, and prevent the worst kinds of discrimination we see in the Chicago housing market today.
Pathways to Home Ownership
For many Chicagoans, being or becoming a homeowner has long been the key to the American Dream. It means building wealth, having a place to raise a family, and knowing there is a place to call home. But for too many, this dream has slipped out of reach.
Ballooning home prices, skyrocketing interest rates and massive down payment requirements mean for the vast majority of us, the dream of home ownership is harder than it has ever been. It is a failure of City leadership that there are fewer Black homeowners in Chicago today than there were ten years ago, even though the total number of homeowners in the City went up. We have also made no progress in closing the homeownership gap.
City Hall, however, has the power to tip the balance in people’s favor. As mayor, Brandon Johnson will offer support for new and aspiring homeowners through improved and targeted financial preparation and assistance, and:
🔵 Expand outreach and counseling for prospective homeowners. Nationally, for every Black or Latino homeowner under 45 years of age, there are two more “mortgage ready” individuals who meet the financial and credit criteria for obtaining a mortgage but have not done so. Outreach, education and counseling can prepare people who might not even realize home ownership is a real option.
🔵 Partner with banks and lenders to create specialized loan products for Chicagoans with steady incomes. There are thousands of Chicago families that can afford a mortgage today, but are shut out because of their credit score or lack of credit history. The City can partner with lenders to create Special Purpose Credit Programs that can extend loans to families shut out of traditional loan products.
🔵 Supporting land trusts and cooperative housing models. Transferring land or vacant buildings to land trusts preserves affordability in perpetuity. Cooperative housing allows for low-income families to build equity as homeowners, while ensuring that the home will remain affordable if the home is subsequently sold.
🔵 Simplifying the CHA’s Choose to Own program. The Authority outlines a five-step process to simply send in an application, but we should be making it easier for people to own homes, not harder. Our administration will insist on easier-to-navigate programs, at CHA and throughout city government.
Chicago’s 170 subsidized senior buildings — home to approximately 25,000 seniors across the city – need protections and services to ensure that these low-income seniors can age with dignity, in safe housing and with the care services they need to age in place. As mayor, I will enact protections for these senior buildings and ensure that these seniors have their physical and mental health needs cared for.
As mayor, I will work to expand the Chicago Department of Public Health to hire social workers specifically to work with seniors across Chicago and in Chicago’s 170 senior buildings. These social workers would work with seniors in their buildings to provide mental health counseling, support in requesting reasonable accommodation or other accessibility needs, and assistance in navigating resources and applying for benefits like homemakers, food stamps.