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Old Posted Jul 18, 2019, 10:38 PM
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ardecila ardecila is offline
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: the city o'wind
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Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
My understanding is Chicago is pretty unique in terms of major U.S. cities in that it effectively allows aldermen "pocket vetoes" over any development in their district. This is a horrible system, because it creates all kinds of incentives for developers to provide kickbacks to particular aldermen if they want a particular project to go forward.
IMO, Chicago benefited from this system more than it suffered. In a nation where most big cities have seen 60+ years of anti-development fervor, Chicago developers - not just big players, but plenty of small-time guys as well - had a way to move projects through the gridlock that their counterparts in other cities did not have. Not just mega complexes and highrises, but tons of missing middle as well. The result today is a far more affordable housing stock than, say, Boston or Washington DC.

Moving forward, it would be great for the aldermanic system to get replaced with a permissive bureaucratic system that enables plenty of new housing without corruption, but my fear is that the good-government push will just choke off the supply and give us a coastal housing market without the incomes or economic vitality to match.

First, low-income neighborhoods tend to be pro-development up to a certain point. No one really wants to see abandoned homes and vacant lots peppering the neighborhoods forever. And to the degree to which most cities build "missing middle" housing at all (modern-day two-flats/three-flats and the like) they tend to be heavily concentrated in lower-income neighborhoods, where there isn't a strong demand for SFH-only zones.
Generally speaking, the neighborhoods in Chicago most opposed to gentrification don't have a lot of abandoned homes or vacant lots - those things tend to be confined to Black neighborhoods. The Latino neighborhoods in the crosshairs of gentrification tend to be pretty well-kept, if low-income, due to a more peaceful racial transition back in the 70s/80s. I know LA has a similar pattern of gentrification, probably other cities as well.

Black neighborhoods plagued by vacancy DO tend to be pro-development, to some extent, but developers don't usually see any demand to live in those neighborhoods, perhaps because of racism but also just because the sheer amount of vacancy makes them less livable places.

Second, the initial phases of gentrification tend to lower density rather than raising it. A neighborhood must be fairly far along the gentrification process before market-rate infill is warranted in most of the country.
Arguably there is no "correct" number of people to occupy a given unit of housing other than the number of bedrooms. If a couple with two children moves out of a two-bedroom apartment and is replaced with two roommates, the density is cut in half, but I'm hard-pressed to call that a bad thing. What offends me is the "de-conversions", a handy term left over from the 60s that somehow implies that all buildings should rightfully be single-family homes, even when they were purpose-built for two or three apartments.
la forme d'une ville change plus vite, hélas! que le coeur d'un mortel...
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