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Study: 'Aldermanic Privilege' Leads to Segregation

Chicago's own city government, in the form of aldermanic prerogatives and privileges, contributes to racial and economic segregation, according to a new study.
July 10, 2018, 10am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Lolly Bowean reports: "As far back as the 1930s, Chicago aldermen used their ability to decide zoning and land use in their wards to create and maintain communities segregated by race and class, according to a new report."

"Some 80 years later, elected officials continue to lean on both their informal and documented powers to block affordable housing in affluent white communities and keep lower-income black and Latino residents confined to certain parts of the city, the report says," adds Bowean.

The report, titled "A City Fragmented," will be released this week by the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance.

Bowean digs deeper into the implications of the report, including the possibility that local elected officials violate civil rights laws when using their privilege to block affordable housing. More information about the nature of aldermanic privilege in Chicago is also available in the article. As hinted at above, much of this power is informal and unwritten. Here's how Bowean describes the approvals process that has created the problem:

Typically, if a development in a ward needs a zoning change or permit, and the development is not supported by the alderman of that ward, the proposal is voted down if it ever reaches the full City Council. In some cases, a developer can make a proposal, and the presiding alderman or zoning advisory council will dictate changes — such as how many of the apartments will be condominiums and how many should be set aside for lower-income residents. Those negotiations have to be navigated before the proposal can reach the City Council. The development proposal can also linger in the zoning committee, which is another way it eventually dies from inaction.

That probably sounds familiar to developers and planners living in other cities besides Chicago, and it's possible that the findings of this study could be reproduced or supplemented in other cities.

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 in Chicago Tribune
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