An ordinance aimed at slowing gentrification and displacement by halting residential demolition around the western portion of The 606 cleared the city’s Committee on Housing and Real Estate and full City Council on Tuesday morning. The moratorium on tear-downs will take effect on February 1 and last six months.
Gentrification pressure near The 606 has been a concern since day one, and home prices have surged since the abandoned rail tracks reopened as a linear park in 2015. As demand for luxury housing increased, the area’s supply of more affordable two- to four-flat buildings have dwindled due to demolitions and deconversions into pricier single-family homes.
The loss of multi-unit housing is an issue across the city, but the area around The 606 has been hit especially hard. A newly released study by the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University found that prices for one- to four-unit buildings in the vulnerable portions of the western half of The 606 increased “nearly 344 percent since 2012.”
The new legislation evolved from an earlier proposal introduced by Alderman Roberto Maldonado (26th) and Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th). It had called for a 12 to 14-month pause on not only demolitions but new construction permits and zoning changes near the popular elevated trail.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot rejected the initial ordinance but put her support behind the revised six-month moratorium, which will stretch between California to Kostner avenues, extending north to Armitage Avenue and south to Hirsch Street.
Simply halting demolitions won’t address displacement and affordability on its own. Supporters of the plan hope the six-month pause will allow city officials—such as the recently reinstated Chicago Department of Housing and the mayor’s Inclusionary Housing Task Force—to craft new policies to address the decline in naturally-occurring affordable housing in the area.
“The loss of density that occurs when you replace two- and three-flats with single-family homes is not in the best interests of our communities,” Alderman Ramirez-Rosa told Curbed Chicago in early January. “It’s not in the best interest of our under-enrolled schools, our struggling commercial corridors, and the diversity of our neighborhoods.”
Ramirez-Rosa had previously partnered Maldonado on a 2017 proposal that would have imposed extra fees on developers who tear down affordable multi-family properties near The 606. Although that measure never passed City Council due to questions over its legality, the latest ordinance is legal, according to the city’s Law Department.