Today’s Headlines for Tuesday, December 6

  • Transit Advocates: Trump Infra Plan Could Fund Downtown Rail Expansion (Crain’s)
  • Chicago to Host Global Forum on Urban Waterfront Development (Curbed)
  • Truck Driver Fatally Struck Man, 59, on 100 Block of West Congress Last Week (DNA)
  • Motorist Seriously Injured Man, 43, in Naperville Early Sunday Morning (Sun-Times)
  • Parts of Green, Pink Line Closed as Man Runs on Elevated Tracks Threatening to Jump (DNA)
  • Active Trans Looks at How Participatory Budgeting Helps Fund Walking, Biking Infrastructure
  • Food Truck Owners Lose Battle to Overturn Chicago’s “Restrictive” Regulations  (Tribune)
  • Meet Erica Sosa, Subway Platform Hula Hoop Performer (RedEye)
  • Mayor’s Bike Advisory Council Meeting This Wednesday at 3 PM in City Hall Room 1103
  • Benefit Concert for Active Trans Tuesday 12/13 8:30 at Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western

Get national headlines at Streetsblog USA

  • Why are they targeting TOD and not other developments? More visible?

  • JacobEPeters

    Probably because all of the larger projects in the neighborhood are TOD (as they should be because focusing density around transit is common sense planning). Still, I would have expected a protest of the church converted to condos (it’s pretty visible), or a protest of any of the $700k+ single family homes (both new construction & deconversions) around the neighborhood that are really exacerbating housing supply issues, but I haven’t ever seen that.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    There have been protests against non-TOD projects, such as the $900K single-family homes being built on the 1700 block of North Humboldt Boulevard, neat the Bloomingdale Trail. But virtually all of the larger new developments in the area are TODs. The TOD ordinance provides an incentive for developers because it waives the parking requirement and allows additional density, which makes the buildings more cost-effective.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    Who pays for the affordable housing? Is it indirectly the other tenants?

  • Obesa Adipose

    The developer initially pays for the affordable housing. However the developer makes up for the extra costs by being allowed to build more units on the same piece of land (more units = more profits) and by not having to provide X number of parking spaces much of which is costly dead space.

  • Chicagoan

    We need more affordable housing TOD’s.

    The TOD ordinance is good, but it must be more than a mechanism for developers to maximize their profits, moving lower class people away from quality transit.

  • Harry

    This is a very important topic but also very complex. While related to transit, I feel other blogs like Curbed and DNA will cover this issue. With limited resources and no other sources covering transit as well as you guys, I feel it might be worth considering spending less time on this socioeconomic subject.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Thanks for the kind words about our transit coverage.

    Streetsblog Chicago cofounder Steven Vance and I feel it’s important to stay on top of the transit-oriented development issue. We’re longtime proponents of transit-oriented development, but it’s also important that development is done in an equitable way. It’s unfortunate that almost all TOD projects in Chicago have been upscale buildings in affluent or gentrifying neighborhoods when TOD also has many potential benefits for lower-income residents and communities.

    We write about many other issues that are also covered by the dailies and other websites, but because this is a sustainable transportation news and advocacy site we have a unique perspective and the ability to express our opinions about the issues.

  • Pat

    Hit it on the head.

    Instead of the carrot, in TOD corridors the City need to use the stick. Create low parking maximums and higher affordable housing minimums. With higher density, profits (while maybe not as high) are still there.

    Also, the CHA needs to start getting in the TOD business when and where they can. It’s my understanding that as an agency, they are sitting on a huge backlog and piles of cash.

  • Carter O’Brien

    I think affordable housing set-asides are a part of the problem. These by definition inflate the price of the rest of the units, and create another corruption-prone red-tape system that can be exploited by connected politicians and developers.

    What we need is affordable construction that then directly connects to affordable rents, period. Get rid of the fancy elements in these buildings that are jacking up the construction prices and focus on buildings that are inexpensive to maintain and heat/cool and will stand the test of time.

  • Jared Kachelmeyer

    Do the luxury features add all that much to the cost? The land cost what it costs and a basic building probably doesn’t have that many corners that can be cut.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Oh, my friend. We did an almost complete to-the-studs rehab of our 1910 home a few years ago, and I can say with 100% confidence that there is the sky-is-the-limit possibility (and temptation) to upgrade on everything from light switches to fixtures to crown moulding to cabinets to countertops to tiles to appliances, etc.

    This what developers mean by “luxury living,” and are exactly the kinds of things the $1300-a-month-studio crowd looks for.

    It’s why the supply-and-demand argument rings so hollow in the real world that is a gentrifying North Side neighborhood. An increase in the supply of luxury housing does nothing to bring down rents in vintage and utility-grade buildings, because those housing supply curves cater to two completely different demand curves.

    The $1300-a-month studio creates what the transportation set calls “induced demand,” the people that will rent these units arrive in Logan Square when that new upscale housing shows up – these aren’t the first wave of DIY creative professionals/gentrifiers that show up and rehab dilapidated vintage properties that still have valuable architectural details and good bones, nor are they the service sector/art/music industry people that moved into Logan Square in the 90s and Aughts.

    This housing reflects a later, more mature stage of gentrification, and it is not a welcome development for either diversity or long-time residents on fixed incomes.

  • Carter O’Brien

    It is definitely complex. I read Curbed (a real estate driven blog) and DNA Info (general Chicago news) and enjoy what both of them bring to the table, but by using a larger framework of sustainability that includes transportation and connectivity (cultural as well as individual), Streetsblog brings a larger context that seems to often get lost. This is a good read:

  • Courtney

    And yet, isn’t transit so often a socioeconomic issue?
    Which neighborhoods have access to quality transit and which ones don’t?
    How are certain neighborhoods designed/planned for transit access or bike routes and which ones seem to have very little planning/thought into how they function?
    How are certain neighborhoods impacted by TOD?
    Are there ways in which the TOD ordinance in Chicago can be redesigned to ensure more equity?

    I for one am grateful for Streestblog’s coverage of this issue. I can’t see Curbed covering it because they seem to be more interested in more of these luxury condos and developments being built than say more affordable housing. DNA….meh.

  • planetshwoop

    I think real estate developers respond to incentives. Incentives do not favor affordable rental housing.

    The TOD probably enables density (esp. at a time when credit is expanding) making the conditions just right for a lot of new luxury housing outside the usual areas of South Loop, River North. (And there’s plenty there too.)

    But real estate developers have to get loans, and the process for “multi-family” housing is complex. Most require a 20% stake and significant experience operating housing to generate the money needed to keep the loan current. The number of lenders is also much lower than single-family homes, esp. if one wants to participate in any of the Fannie / Freddie programs, so there’s less competition to keep costs down.

    It’s thus easy to see why high-end TOD and senior housing is attractive: the risk of not getting paid back is lower. Luxury buildings likely have more well-to-do tenants that can afford the rent, and seniors can have their income guaranteed from government sources, unlike many workers.

    In other words, there are not a lot of financial incentives to build affordable housing, and there are often political disincentives (NIMBY, density fears, zoning). There are lots of incentives to get single-family homes, from cheap loans to Fannie/Freddie, which lower rates and thus costs.

    Absent some sweeteners to push this along from Fannie / Freddie (via discounted loans), or elimination of the mortgage deduction to decrease the attractiveness of single-family homes, this is unlikely to change.

  • GlobalLA

    These activists should blame the zoning constraints that allow such projects to pencil out as luxury projects only. How can anyone fight for “equitable” TODs when zoning and NIMBYs set everything against affordability?

  • neroden


    The only way you get lower rents is to build more housing. Protesting the construction of luxury housing is counterproductive.

    Look at San Francisco. Because there’s so little new housing built, the upper class are renting rooms out of dilapidated houses (not even apartments, just rooms) for >$1600/month, forcing the working class out of the city entirely.

    In Chicago? Move to Englewood and buy a house for practically nothing. Next to the Green Line or Red Line stations, even. Geez.

    Now, if someone is demolishing *high capacity* affordable housing to build *low capacity* luxury housing — demolishing an apartment building to build a mansion — why, THEN you have a reason to complain.

    But if they’re demolishing a house to build an apartment building, bluntly, whatever rent they charge, they’re bringing rents down city wide; thank them.

  • neroden

    The partking requirements and the density maximums should just be abolished entirely.

    Protesting the McMansions makes much more sense.