Chicago mayoral candidates outline plans to bring accessibility to local affordable housing

Chicago City Hall
Chicago City Hall. On Saturday, seven of the city's nine mayoral candidates answered questions at a forum hosted by the disability advocacy organization Access Living. Photo credit Mike Tish

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — A forum hosted Saturday at Access Living on the Near North Side allowed Chicago mayoral candidates to field questions on key issues directly from the disability community.

The first issue brought to seven of Chicago’s nine mayoral candidates — Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) and Dr. Willie Wilson were unable to attend — concerned housing.

Moderator Andres Gallegos, with Hughes Socol Piers Resnick & Dym, Ltd., said a major barrier to integrating people with disabilities into their local communities is the “absence of accessible and affordable housing.”

Candidates were asked what specific actions they would take to increase the availability of affordable and accessible housing for people with disabilities throughout the city. Below, we’ve included responses from each candidate, listed in alphabetical order. A link to Saturday’s full forum may be found here.

Illinois State Rep. Kam Buckner

Buckner floated the idea of using the real estate transfer tax to address homelessness along with converting existing affordable housing.

“We need to pass and enforce a city ordinance that requires that all new affordable housing built in Chicago is accessible,” Buckner said.

U.S. Rep. Chuy Garcia

“I would use federal funds and local funds, including TIF funds, to increase funding with grants and subsidized loans to help homeowners remain in their homes in areas that are rapidly gentrifying,” Garcia said.

Ja’Mal Green

Community organizer Ja’Mal Green began his 75 second pitch on creating accessible affordable housing by saying that promises made by politicians for thousands of units, have gone unfulfilled adding that he would work to lessen existing home ownership barriers.

“We must hold accountable the current developers who are not keeping up with their properties. I got senior facilities who have elevators that aren’t even working,” Green said.

Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson

County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, agrees with using the real estate transfer tax — like Buckner —  to create a revenue stream.

“I believe there should be a moratorium on land, where public housing used to be occupied, that we do not build on that land, thank you,” Johnson said.

Ald. Sophia King (4th)

King answered that she would continue working toward bringing affordable housing to all areas of the city.

“What I’ve been able to show as alderman of the Fourth Ward is to intentionally bring affordable housing to the projects that we’ve had whether it’s downtown Michigan Avenue, on Wabash, whether it’s in Hyde Park or it’s in Bronzeville,” King said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot

The incumbent Lightfoot said that, if re-elected, she would build on her administration's progress toward addressing an inherited 120,000 affordable unit deficit.

“And every housing project that we invest in, particularly the ones that are affordable, are also accessible,” Lightfoot said.

Paul Vallas

Vallas, the former Chicago Public Schools CEO, said he would remove barriers to building new housing and obstacles that keep current homeowners from converting garden level units to accessible rentals.

“We have 15,000 vacant buildings, buildings that are in some phase of housing court, etcetera. Why could we not secure those buildings, turn them over to community based organizations and housing advocates to provide housing for people with disabilities, to homeless, domestic violence,” Vallas said.

The responses from all candidates attending the forum can be found on Access Living’s website. Sawyer and Wilson are expected to complete an associated questionnaire, which will be made public.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Mike Tish