Huffpost Chicago

Sweet Home Chicago Ordinance For Affordable Housing Blocked On Technicality

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An ordinance that would mandate city spending on affordable housing stumbled yesterday on a point of protocol designed to make government more transparent.

The Sweet Home Chicago ordinance would force the city each year to dedicate a percentage of a municipal slush fund called a TIF (for "tax-increment financing") to affordable housing. The bill has come before the council a few times already, postponed each time for fine-tuning and political maneuvering.

Alderman Walter Burnett tried to bring the Sweet Home Chicago ordinance back before the City Council on Thursday -- with enough support to pass it -- but was blocked by the powerful Ald. Ed Burke. The Finance Committee chair said Burnett was violating the state's Open Meeting Act by not giving 48 hours' notice.

Burnett pointed out that the city only requires a 24-hour notice, and that time and time again, the Council has considered bills in such a timeframe, as WBEZ reports. But it's hard to win when you go up against one of the city's most powerful politicians, and a longtime ally of Mayor Daley. A roll-call vote went against Burnett, tabling the bill.

Supporters of the ordinance are hoping to have it placed on the agenda for next month's council meeting, but Burnett told WLS that he's concerned about that meeting being postponed until after the February 22 city elections. "They know that every alderman feels compelled to vote for this because they know the people in their communities are suffering," he said.

Daley's opposition to the measure likely stems from his desire to keep the TIF money under his control. Around $1.2 billion are currently held in the city's TIF accounts, which are filled by withheld property-tax revenues. The mayor can use the money essentially at his discretion -- it's meant to help fund development projects for turning around urban blight, but has often been used for more glamorous projects in already-thriving neighborhoods.

The Sweet Home Chicago ordinance would require that 20 percent of TIF dollars be spent on affordable-housing projects.