What the Market Will Bear is Not Affordable

08 10 15 ChicagoThe City of Chicago is taking a new approach to increasing affordable housing.  Using vacant land (approximately 1,000 parcels spread throughout the city), the The Chicago Infrastructure Trust, (hatched in 2012 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to get public projects funded with private money), is launching a design contest that encourages creativity in building affordable homes that require no subsidy.

The contest seeks a design for a vacant lot in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood.  Builders are challenged to provide a single family house to sell for $125,000 or a duplex for $150,000.  The contest winner will have the opportunity to build on the remaining vacant lots.

The director of the Trust suggests that designs may include modular housing or repurposed container cars, stating, “We need to let the market determine what an affordable house is like.”  The “market” has already spoken, however, and across the country, its message is clear–the market does not build affordable housing, absent government subsidy in the form of subsidized rents or tax credit investments or both.  Leaving this issue to the marketplace is what has created the affordable housing crisis that nearly all communities are trying to overcome.