Local Group: Do This For A More Equitable Chicago | WBEZ
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Local Group: Do This For A More Equitable Chicago

The Metropolitan Planning Council is looking to end the Chicago area’s legacy of segregation while providing racial equity and prosperity.

The council — a nonprofit that works to connect businesses, other nonprofits and civic leaders — released a new report Tuesday that offers recommendations to break the link between Chicago area segregation and racism. It contains two dozen policy initiatives targeting housing, jobs, education, criminal justice reform, and economic development.

The idea is that local elected officials would approach public policy through what is called a racial equity framework: They’d work with private and nonprofit sectors so that budgeting, grantmaking and public policy would begin with a racial equity lens. They point to these places as examples.

“When we segregated people by race, we didn’t only separate where they live, we also segregated their social networks, we segregated their access to wealth building vehicles, access to credit, things like that,” said Marisa Novara, lead author of the Metropolitan Planning Council report. “Those things don’t go away simply because we change a law about where people can live.”

And so the MPC focus is not simply about integration.

“Segregation is a byproduct of racism; then the solutions in this roadmap focus on racial equity as our goal,” Novara said.

Last year, MPC released a groundbreaking report about of the cost of segregation to the region.  Researchers said that a reduction in racial segregation would result in $4.4 billion in additional income to the area.

Our Equitable Future: Some recommendations


Increase subsidies for housing vouchers, commonly known as Section 8

Tens of thousands of low-income Chicagoans use vouchers to rent in the private market. Vouchers are clustered in segregated South and West Side neighborhoods because the money doled out from the public housing authority only goes so far. MPC finds if those rent subsidies are increased, more units will be available in pricer neighborhoods like North Center, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Near North Side, West Town, Near West Side, the Loop, and Near South Side.

Lessen local control over affordable housing

Aldermanic prerogative means each alderman has control over the land use and zoning decisions in their own ward. MPC recommends that when a residential development with at least 10 percent affordability is proposed for a ward with less than 10 percent affordable housing, that development can’t be rejected or delayed by the alderman alone.


Get Chicago Public Schools to adopt an “equities in all policies” approach

Racial equity assessment is done before any merger, closure or consolidation of a school.

Racial/economic integration

Find ways to merge nearby schools by looking at demographic and enrollment trends.  

State level education funding

Enforce a statewide formula around equitable spending that follows students from higher poverty communities, English language learners, and students with special education needs.

Criminal justice

Break the link between people with low incomes and incarceration

Get rid of wealth-based pretrial detention by prohibiting the use of secured money bail, don’t suspend driver’s licenses for nonpayment of tickets or fine, require implicit bias training for all staff who work in the criminal court system staff.

 is WBEZ’s South Side reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @natalieymoore.

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