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Last week, Shelterforce, a community development-oriented publication, published "Eviction Reduction Should Be an Explicit Goal of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program," co-written by Glenda Krouse Matute, Dan Immergluck, and Clarence Messler. The article is a valuable exploration of what expectations are placed upon affordable housing providers who apply for Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) funds, the primary method of financing the construction of affordable housing units in the US today. Distressingly, after investigating policy outlines for states and cities nationwide, the authors found that almost no jurisdiction requires these kinds of developments to have explicit anti-eviction protections in place, seemingly running in contradiction to these project's stated purpose of providing low-cost housing to those who need it most.
What does this mean in practice? Our coalition, the Chicago Housing Justice League, has been pushing the Chicago Rehab Network to change its stance on Just Cause for Eviction, a policy that would prevent 10,000 Chicago households from no-fault displacement each year. The Rehab Network, an umbrella organization that represents the majority of Chicago's most influential affordable housing developers, has thus far refused to endorse Just Cause, while telling the Justice League that it agrees in principle with many aspects of the legislation we've proposed. Even as we've made significant changes to the bill to garner the Rehab Network's support, we have now waited more than a month for the organization to respond to our latest set of amendments, during which time eviction court has been open and exposed more renters to displacement. While the Rehab Network's voice is influential in changing the minds of countless elected officials who we need to sign onto Just Cause, the organization has thus far refused to take the lead in supporting basic housing security for their own tenants and for all of Chicago's 1.5 million renters.
On the organization's website, the Rehab Network encourages people to "Support Development Without Displacement." But without endorsing Just Cause, we know what happens in Chicago: tenants in gentrifying neighborhoods are pushed out in favor of those who can afford higher rents, like the existing renters in this 18-unit building in Bronzeville that were displaced when new ownership bought the building last year. Will the Rehab Network back up its own stated values and ensure that both nonprofit and for-profit owners cannot eviction renters without good cause? As the authors of the Shelterforce article argue, "Given the substantial evidence on the harms that evictions impose on families and communities, [LIHTC] should include eviction reduction and mitigation as an explicit goal." It's time for the Rehab Network to step up and follow through in this project, and set a model for other affordable housing providers around the country. Chicago's renters can't wait any longer.