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While You're at it, Gov. Quinn...

Ted Rosenbaum

Former athlete, full-time engineer. I'd tell you more but I'd have to kill you.

CNT H+T Map.jpg

CNT's Housing vs. H+T Indices on the South Side. Click to Enlarge.

The Pedestrian Safety Act isn't the only bill languishing on Governor Quinn's desk right now that could fundamentally change Chicago's livability for the better.  The Housing + Transportation Affordability Index Act will help citizens and civic leaders make more informed decisions housing decisions.

Back in March, Chicago's own Center for Neighborhood Technology came out with the Housing + Transportation Affordability Index, which quantified a basic truth: we spend a lot of money on transportation, and both how we get around and how far we have to go is a direct result of where we've chosen to live.   So if we're going to talk about a city or neighborhood being "affordable" the current method of only looking at the going rental rates or the latest house sale price is truly folly.

The H+T Index redefines urban affordability by the combination of housing and transportation costs (hence H+T) to give us all better perspective about the costs of our varied lifestyles.  As nice a tool as this may be for people looking to move and searching for the best deal, its power to help the entire metropolitan population will only come if its findings are used by those in charge of shaping our future.  And that's why this bill is so important.  With the help of State Senator Kwame Raoul (D-13) and Majority Leader Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-25), both houses have approved a measure requiring Illinois to use the H+T Index as a planning tool in metro areas throughout the state.

There is one bit of subtlety to all this that I hope Chicago's leaders -in particular the Department of Zoning and Land Use, and its Commissioner, Patricia Scudiero--really take note of: the housing portion of this index is based on the cost of housing in a given neighborhood.  (This is not the subtle part.)  Housing costs are not just a result of square footage and windows and central A/C though.  A large part of housing costs--especially rental housing in larger apartment buildings--includes off-street parking, which is unnecessarily mandated in areas well-served by transit.

So especially in those areas which score significantly higher under H+T than they do under Housing alone (which indicates good, cheap transportation opportunities,) it would make a lot of sense to reduce or entirely eliminate parking minimums.  This would further increase the affordability of housing in Chicago, instead of pushing the middle and lower classes into the new suburban poverty.

But none of this matters until it's a law.  And all we need for that is your signature, Governor Quinn.



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