My letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun-Times was published on February 26, 2024.
State Rep. Kam Buckner of Chicago has introduced another land use bill that Illinoisans should support. The bill provides that municipalities with a population of 100,000 or more should allow property owners to have more than one home on a lot. This forward-thinking legislation represents a significant step toward addressing the pressing housing challenges facing our communities and would foster more inclusive and sustainable urban development.
The shortage of affordable housing in Illinois for middle-class families, particularly in the Chicago area, has reached a critical point. New housing in places with access to jobs, opportunities and amenities has not kept up with demand.
Buckner’s bill acknowledges the need for innovative solutions to tackle this issue head-on. By lifting the ban on multifamily housing options in residential zones, the legislation promotes diversity in housing types, catering to the needs of our population.
I believe cities that don’t allow enough housing should not be able to push people to remote areas that have cheaper housing and less access to the things that make our cities great. This sprawl has devastating effects on our agricultural land and natural open space, ultimately increasing the tax burden on municipalities by extending and maintaining utilities to far-flung, lower-density areas.
More often than not, residents of sprawling development have higher transportation costs, according to research by the Center for Neighborhood Technology.
In Houston, America’s fourth-largest city with a lot of sprawling development and limited alternatives to driving, 34.4% of households pay 45% or more of their income just for housing and transportation. In Chicago, on the other hand, only 27.5% of households pay 45% or more of their income on housing and transportation.
Multifamily housing— which could be as little as two homes on a lot — not only provides more affordable options but also promotes a more efficient use of space and resources. By fostering mixed-use development, it’s easier to create and sustain neighborhoods with vibrant retail in walking distance.
Our legislators should recognize the positive impact that allowing multifamily housing can have on affordability, community development and overall urban sustainability. It’s time to embrace progressive measures that will shape a more equitable and prosperous future in Illinois.
Steven Vance, urban planner, South Loop