Stability in Affordable Housing

One of our clinical projects this year involves an organization that provides affordable housing throughout the City of Chicago. Affordable housing is provided to those who meet certain income requirements and can include families, seniors, people with disabilities, formerly homeless individuals, and veterans. One of the organization's goals is to transition tenants from subsidized housing to private housing. 

The term stability is an important concept to understand in the context of affordable housing. Stability has various definitions according to the person defining it. It could be a term used to describe employment or a permanent place of residence. One of the difficult challenges is how an organization incentivizes its residents to transition into the private market when stability is of concern. 

A possible approach would be to offer certain services to residents in areas such as education, financial literacy, and employment. Residents would have an opportunity to learn information and apply it to their lives. At the outset of this project, I did not understand how to determine the type of information that should be presented to residents. I believe that this would depend on resident needs, but what I have come to find out is that the answer is less complex. Some of the knowledge I have acquired throughout the years in private housing is knowledge that I have taken for granted particularly because it is not afforded to everyone.  Examples of this could be tenant rights, landlord obligations, or budgeting concerns when utilities are not included as part of rent. Offering services is not intended to be the answer to the question about how to help people transition into the private market, but it is a start. Affordable housing is a contentious issue not just amongst residents and organizations, but also amongst cities and developers. 

Recently, there was an article in the Chicago Tribune titled, "Developer, Builders Sue City Over Affordable Housing Rule." The article is about a lawsuit between developers and the City of Chicago regarding the Chicago Affordable Requirements Ordinance. The ordinance requires developers to set aside a certain percentage of units for affordable housing or to pay a fee. This article highlights an issue that is disconcerting. Most people would likely agree that it is important to create a safe, affordable living environment for everyone. However, people are not comfortable with the solution of having affordable housing available in their neighborhoods.