On Wednesday, December 10, during a news conference at City Hall, a city-wide coalition called for changes to Chicago’s Affordable Requirement Ordinance. The coalition included the Disability Rights Action Coalition for Housing (DRACH), Access Living’s Housing Organizing Group. At the news conference, Access Living joined ONE Northside, Communities United, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. The coalition demanded that the Affordable Requirement Ordinance adopt a higher fee for developers that choose not to include affordable housing units in developments. This would encourage the development of on-site units and would grow revenue for affordable housing. The coalition also demanded that fees not be lowered in low and moderate-income neighborhoods.
DRACH joined the coalition in order to push for the development of more affordable housing units that are accessible to people with disabilities. Representing DRACH at the news conference, Karen Boyd spoke to the need to modify the ARO in order to bring in more revenue to support affordable, accessible, and integrated housing for low income people with disabilities and other communities.
“People with disabilities live in every neighborhood in the city and face many challenges to finding accessible, affordable, and integrated housing,” Boyd said. “Often, people with disabilities are trapped in nursing homes or inaccessible units because of these challenges. I here am to make sure the ARO supports the needs of all Chicago residents, including people with disabilities.”
The Affordable Requirements Ordinance was created to make sure that housing development (especially those getting City incentives) in Chicago benefited all Chicago residents, regardless of income, and that affordable housing existed all over the city, including in high-income communities. Though the ARO brings in new revenue and new affordable units, it does not create as much affordable housing as the City and advocates had expected, especially in rapidly gentrifying communities.
"Our vision is a city that people from all incomes can thrive in,” said Reverend Kevin McLemore, a member of coalition partner ONE Northside. “Our low- and middle-income families are being forced out. Everyday people like teachers, nurses, firefighters, construction workers, even ministers like myself, cannot afford to live in our neighborhoods anymore.”
Members of DRACH echo McLemore’s concerns. Quality, affordable housing is a challenge for all people in Chicago who are low income. With not enough accessible housing to meet the demand, the search for integrated, affordable, quality housing is even more difficult for people with disabilities. The search is so difficult, some people with disabilities are forced into nursing homes because community options do not exist.
DRACH’s participation in the coalition is part of the Equal Access Across Chicago Campaign, a campaign launched in November to expand integrated, affordable, and accessible housing opportunities for people with disabilities all around Chicago.