Plan would hike demolition fees to try to stem gentrification in Chicago’s Northside

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Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and aldermen are backing a plan to assess additional fees of several thousand dollars on building demolitions in the fast-gentrifying Pilsen neighborhood and the vicinity of The 606 elevated park on the Northwest Side, in another attempt to slow the loss of housing for working-class families.
Under the ordinance backed by the mayor and Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa, 35th, and Ald. Daniel La Spata, 1st, developers knocking down an existing single-family home or two-flat in either area would need to pay a $15,000 fee, while bigger buildings would trigger a $5,000-per-unit fee. Ramirez-Rosa acknowledged the fees might not be big enough to deter developers seeking to put up luxury homes or condominiums.

“Especially when you can sell a condo for so much more, developers aren’t going to sweat $15,000,” Ramirez-Rosa said. But he said the city has agreed to study the situation and to increase the demolition fees if needed.

The latest move comes a month after the City Council passed other measures to try to protect affordable housing in Pilsen and near The 606.
The council previously adopted an anti-deconversion ordinance designed to make it harder for developers to purchase buildings with multiple apartments and convert them into expensive single-family homes. And it passed an ordinance designed to protect housing density near The 606 by ruling that only multiunit buildings could be developed on blocks near the elevated park where more than half the properties with certain types of zoning rules are multiunit buildings.

Ramirez-Rosa said the demolition fees are also needed, lest developers keep the density of housing units near the park the same but replace affordable apartments with luxury ones. “The best housing for working-class families is in most cases the existing housing,” she said.
The ordinance was introduced to the City Council on Wednesday and sent to committee for consideration.

By John Byrne and Gregory Pratt
Chicago Tribune

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