CBA Record February-March 2019

YLS Special Issue– Diversity of Opportunity

munity create immediate job opportunities and accumulate generational wealth. These goals are extremely important for histori- cally disinvested communities of color. The Community Benefits Agreements seek to create a private solution to ensure that these major investments–which communities want and need–equally flow to and benefit the community’s people and not just the developer. In addition, communities are looking for long-termwealth building tools coming from within the people of the community. Community land trusts and shared own- ership housing cooperatives (sometimes called limited equity co-ops) can create a new path to generational wealth and housing stability. Both of these tools create accessible forms of stable home ownership for first-time homeowners and working families. Chicago has only just begun to adapt these models to address our current challenges. They can be developed further as public solutions, private models, and as public-private partnerships. Challenging the Cook County Assessor’s Office and the Residential Property Tax Assessment System Often, systemic barriers to housing result from policies or practices that appear to be neutral on their face but nevertheless violate the law because they have a dis- proportionate impact on communities of color. Such policies and practices are ripe for addressing through another tool for equitable development: systemic litigation. A recent example is a lawsuit brought by community organizations that challenges the Cook County Assessor’s Office’s resi- dential property tax assessment system. In 2017, following investigative report- ing by the ChicagoTribune and ProPublica and research conducted by the University of Chicago identifying inequities in the Cook County property tax system, Chi- cago Lawyers’ Committee, along with two partner law firms, filed a lawsuit against the Cook County Assessor’s Office (CCAO) in state court on behalf several commu- nity organizations. In the complaint, the

and the zoning decisions in each ward are highly localized through the practice of aldermanic prerogative, or aldermanic privilege. Individual zoning decisions are frequently made without context for how they affect the city as a whole, and few safeguards to ensure equity are built into those decisions. Through the practice of aldermanic privilege, the city council defers to the local alderman almost entirely, rarely disagreeing on any zoning decisions. While a separate board is set up to administer cer- tain types of zoning decisions (the Zoning Board of Appeals), almost all processes rely on the approval of the alderman. This practice has been used as a tool to prevent specific developments (frequently afford- able housing), a decision made in isolation from the rest of the city. Using zoning as a tool of exclusion is a well-documented national trend–one which is empowered by aldermanic pre- rogative. Chicago’s overlap of exclusionary zoning and its history of segregation is well detailed in a 2018 report from the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance (CAFHA) and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law titled A City Fragmented. The

Metropolitan Planning Council’s work on this issue in its 2018 Roadmap to Equity, the second part of its Cost of Segregation analysis, emphasizes the importance of lessening the local control (ward-level) over affordable housing decisions. Both reports underscore the role that local zoning has in hampering affordable development. This practice continues to reinforce Chicago’s inequitable segregation. In contrast, the concept of “equitable development” encourages both private developments and public policy to ensure that any specific project does not unfairly burden a particular group of people while encouraging developments and policies that would address inequity. This practice focuses on transactional legal tools, such as the negotiation for and creation of Com- munity Benefits Agreements. Communi- ties will frequently look to utilize Commu- nity Benefits Agreements, particularly for large “catalytic” developments, to ensure that those developments take place in an equitable manner. They seek to protect long-time residents of a neighborhood and ensure that families are not displaced, while also looking to the future to help the com-


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