Suburbs Should Collaborate on Affordable Housing

Newswise — Chicago's suburbs are short on affordable housing because they have not collaborated to reach the state's mandated goals, according to a University of Illinois at Chicago study published in the current issue of the Journal of the American Planning Association.

Suburbs that for years have required large lots and high-end development find that their land is too costly and scarce to attract developers of affordable housing, concluded Charles Hoch, UIC professor of urban planning and policy.

Hoch, author of the study, suggests that the Illinois Affordable Housing and Planning Act be modified to allow clusters of suburbs, rather than individual suburbs, to meet the 10-percent affordability requirement.

"The mandate's proponents expect that high-end suburbs will tap new sources of revenue to subsidize affordable housing," Hoch said. "But those suburbs will tap government sources as well, thus reducing the funds available to others who can build on less expensive land."

Most suburban officials surveyed agreed that although public employees should be able to live where they work, other residents would oppose affordable housing, Hoch said.

Some officials of home-rule municipalities argued that home rule exempts them from the state's requirement. Others challenged the state's calculation, claiming that their housing supply already exceeds the requirement, Hoch said.

"There are ways to plan mixed-income subdivisions that fit attractively with more prosperous neighborhoods," said Hoch. "But these alternatives require that officials and residents see affordability as a source of value. Municipalities can respond defensively to the mandate, or they can work with neighboring towns to meet regional needs."

UIC ranks among the nation's top 50 universities in federal research funding and is Chicago's largest university with 25,000 students, 12,000 faculty and staff, 15 colleges and the state's major public medical center. A hallmark of the campus is the Great Cities Commitment, through which UIC faculty, students and staff engage with community, corporate, foundation and government partners in hundreds of programs to improve the quality of life in metropolitan areas around the world. For more information about UIC, please visit

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