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Where the ARO units are

Published on Nov. 7, 2019 by Steven Vance

The Chicago Department of Housing published its interactive Affordable Requirements Ordinance dashboard today. The website shows where residential units have been built as a result of the City’s ARO law, in place since 2003.

The ARO is a form of inclusionary housing, a group of rules used in cities all over the country that require market-rate housing builders to provide affordable housing. In the ARO generally, the developer has to rent or sell 10 percent of the units in a project as affordable in exchange for a zoning change.

And it’s one of the many affordable housing funding programs that Chicago funds or tracks (in this case tracks). Read about the 19 other programs.

ARO units are one of the many types of affordable housing that Chicago tracks and lists in its affordable developments dataset that we recently added.

My favorite part about the dashboard is that DOH policy analyst Paul Williams said it’s going to be updated monthly, and eventually more frequently as it becomes automated. My second favorite part is that all of the data can be downloaded.

A screenshot of part of the dashboard showing the projects in the West Town community area that have an ARO contribution for affordable housing.

It’s easy to highlight a specific community area and see how many ARO units are (1) proposed, (2) approved by the DOH, (3) have been issued permits, or (4) are completed and accepting tenants.

The West Town community area has the second highest number of ARO units with 43 completed on-site units in nine projects. There are 88 on-site units under construction in 10 projects.

The analysis I’m interested in is how many ARO units are in TOD zones, areas within 1,320 feet (two blocks) of CTA and Metra stations and eligible bus route corridors. The residential project locations are aggregated to a block, so the analysis isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s good enough for this purpose.

These unit counts do not represent the full amount of affordable housing built because of the ARO. Many builders pay an in lieu fee that the city uses to construct or subsidize housing or pay rents for very low income households. In rare occasions, the developer will build their required units off-site. The dashboard has 362 projects in the four stages; we analyzed the 125 buildings that are under construction or completed.

How many on-site units are near transit?

Of the 54 completed residential projects in the ARO dashboard, 23 buildings, 42.6 percent, with 223 units are within one block of a CTA or Metra station; 37 buildings, 68.5 percent, with 364 units are within two blocks of a station.

The map shows the location of completed residential projects with on-site ARO units from transit: CTA and Metra stations and eligible bus route corridors. A project that’s under construction or complete is more likely to be within 2 blocks of transit (a station or eligible bus route corridor) than further away.

Of the same 54 completed locations, 16 buildings, 29.6 percent, with 122 units are within one block of an eligible bus route corridor; 26 buildings, 48.1 percent, with 159 units are within two blocks of one of the eligible bus route corridors. These groups of 16 and 26 buildings may also be near a CTA or Metra station, so there is some double counting of units.

These bus route corridors were added to the Chicago TOD ordinance in January 2019 and effectively doubled the area of Chicago in a TOD zone.

In total, there are 407 completed ARO units in 45 buildings within two blocks of a CTA or Metra station or eligible bus route corridor.

How many on-site units will soon be near transit?

Of the 71 under construction residential projects in the ARO dashboard, 12 buildings, 16.9 percent, with 51 units are within one block of a CTA or Metra station; 32 buildings, 45.1 percent, with 306 are within two blocks.

Of the same 71 locations under construction, 14 buildings, 19.7 percent, with 155 units are within one block of an eligible bus route corridor; 24 buildings, 32.4 percent, with 210 units are within two blocks.

Where the ARO units are was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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