Land trust proposed to keep affordable housing affordable

The Daley administration has proposed an ordinance establishing a “Chicago Community Land Trust,” to keep a stock of affordable housing — both for-sale and rental — affordable long-term. One problem with the creation of affordable housing units is that too many don’t stay that way for long. Under the new program, the land beneath a home will be leased to homeowners through a long-term renewable ground lease. When buyers decide to move, they can sell, but for no more than a price determined by the resale formula in the ground lease. Affordable housing in booming city neighborhoods has been a one-step-forward three-steps-back sort of endeavor because so many of the 125,000 affordable units created since ’89 have fallen out of the pool.

Some activists would say too many of those units weren’t really “affordable” to begin with, but that’s a subject for another post (any suggestions on how we should start defining “affordable?”) Like the Low Income Housing Trust Fund, which the new program is modeled on, the Chicago Community Land Trust should be a step forward for affordable housing in the city. We surely need it. And on second thought, maybe the broad use of “affordable” is warranted. Since you now have to be a millionaire to own a house on even my plain block, on the Ravenswood-Uptown border, couples earning close to six figures might well be considered needy.

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