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Our Equitable Future

A Roadmap for the Chicago Region
The work we can all do to uproot our legacy of segregation and accelerate change.

A path forward

Chicago’s segregation is inextricably linked to racism. To break this cycle, our path forward must be rooted in racial equity. Doing so will unlock the potential of all the region’s residents and communities.

In 2015, the Metropolitan Planning Council launched a groundbreaking study to calculate the economic costs of segregation. With the Urban Institute, we documented the extreme price we pay to live so separately by race and income. Our study revealed this singular truth: As residents of the Chicago region, our fate is shared, and by living so separately we pay a steep cost that can be measured in lost income, lost lives and lost potential. These findings have been a catalyst for meaningful action, bringing together people from diverse communities and sectors to develop solutions that will lead to a more and equitable and thriving Chicago region.

Together with more than 100 advisors and issue-specific working groups, we identified 25 needed policies and interventions that better equip everyone living in our region to participate in creating a stronger future. We have built our case for the benefits of a more equitable Chicago region.

The work ahead is urgent and hard, yet doable. And in some cases, it’s already happening.

The number of government, community and business leaders who are taking action to make our region more equitable and inclusive is growing larger every day. Innovative efforts like the City of Chicago’s Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, JPMorgan Chase’s $40 million investment in disinvested neighborhoods, the Chicago Regional Growth Corporation (newly formed to catalyze inclusive regional economic growth), and Chicago United for Equity’s first-ever use of a Racial Equity Assessment in Chicago—these are just a few examples.

Our recommendations build on these programmatic innovations by pushing for deeper change; change that directly addresses entrenched racism. We cannot afford to chip away slowly at inequities, program by program. Our institutions must fundamentally change.

Prioritizing equity and inclusion can have great economic and social benefits for the entire region. MPC’s analysis of the recommendations show tangible outcomes such as:

  • An extra $218 million in spending towards the regional economy if a City Earned Income Tax were adopted
  • 3,377 more available housing units if CHA housing vouchers were expanded
  • $198 million saved annually by eliminating unnecessary pretrial detention

Now is the time to invest in our future by investing in equity and inclusion.

Our roadmap: Recommendations for advancing equity and inclusion

In MPC’s March 2017 Cost of Segregation report, we explicitly emphasized the enormous price we pay for segregation. Yet, the remedies and recommendations offered here go far beyond the patterns of where people live. To disrupt metropolitan Chicago’s legacy of segregation, we focus on the racism and inequity that fueled and continues to fuel it. Fundamentally, segregation and its resulting inequities are by-products of racism—which is why the solutions in this report focus on racial equity and inclusion as the root goal.

Attaining a more equitable and inclusive region can only occur when two paths are simultaneously and rigorously pursued.

  1. Sprite1

    Roadmap to Equity Part 1

    Dismantle the institutional barriers that create disparities and inequities by race and income

    This is known as a racial equity framework and it is a practice that EVERYONE can adopt: government, private sector, philanthropy, community organizations and individuals.

    View recommendation

  2. Sprite2

The following recommendations are comprehensive but not exhaustive. There are many more good ideas and implementers; these are a sampling that we believe get us off to a strong start.

In addition, there are a few key areas that are not yet included in this roadmap. In the Under Study section, we identify topics like a progressive tax structure and determining the right supports for small businesses that call out for further study and serious consideration.

What we have set forth are actions we can take today.

Oak Park adopts racial equity

Cardinal Blase Cupich

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb and Village Trustee Bob Tucker are leading efforts to advance racial equity.

Oak Park is known for being a progressive and inclusive community, and the reputation is well-deserved.

From the historic Fair Housing Ordinance of 1968 to the recent Welcoming Village Ordinance which established Oak Park as a sanctuary city, the Village has a long history of addressing racial diversity and inclusiveness. But it’s challenging itself to do more.

“One of the big issues for those of us who serve on the Village Board is that we don’t know what we don’t know,” says Bob Tucker, Village of Oak Park Trustee. “We need to be mindful of the people we serve and better take into consideration how our decisions impact all the people in our community.”

That’s why Oak Park is taking steps towards adopting a racial equity framework, which, for them, means implementing training, tools and resources that dismantle the institutional barriers that create disparities by race and income. And they aren’t the only ones in their Village. Other entities, like the schools, park district and library are also adopting this approach.

“We all have a role to play in addressing racial equity,” says Anan Abu-Taleb, Mayor of Oak Park. Mayor Abu-Taleb immigrated to Chicago from the Gaza Strip and raised his family and built his business in the Village. “I made Oak Park my home because I feel welcomed here and have a strong sense of belonging. As Mayor, I have a role to play to ensure the people I serve feel like they belong here too, that they have a voice and can meaningfully contribute. It’s the only way we will all win.”

Advancing racial equity

“Policies have been enacted for years and years which have created gaps in equity. The residual impact manifested from those policies is what we currently are witnessing. There should be two things happening to rectify the situation- get rid of the barriers that produce racial inequality and empower people to be able to do their best. Some of our current policies are just band aids.”

—LaShone Kelly, Housing Counselor, Garfield Park Community Council

Roadmap to Equity Part 1:
Dismantle the institutional barriers that create disparities and inequities by race and income

Geography: Chicago Region


The cost our entire region pays for its segregation is steep, measured in lost income, lives and education. While black and brown communities are disproportionately harmed by lack of opportunity, exclusionary development and unjust policies, we all pay a price for this separation. And simply put, it’s a cost we cannot afford.

At the heart of our recommendations is a guiding principle: the only way our region and its residents will reach their full potential is by dismantling the barriers that create disparities and inequities by race and income. It is essential for our growth and our shared prosperity.

Many examples of local progress are highlighted in this roadmap. As a city and region, we should be proud of the programs we have put in place that acknowledge and address our inequities. We also know, however, that governments, businesses and organizations that are most effectively addressing inequities are marrying this programmatic approach with an institutional change approach. This larger commitment moves beyond programs to rigorously examine structures, such as budgets, hiring practices, plans and ordinances that may be perpetuating inequities, regardless of intent.

This is what’s known as a racial equity framework.


Institutions and individuals across all sectors implement a racial equity framework.

All of us have a role to play:

  • Government: The government sector has a constitutional obligation—and statutory powers—to end the segregation of people, power and resources, and demand it of others as well. This means a commitment to not only creating new mechanisms to address disparities, but to changing the institutional systems that perpetuate them through ongoing staff training, equity assessments of any proposed initiatives and investments, and public accountability to progress on goals.
  • Private sector: Moving beyond traditional corporate diversity and inclusion efforts to assessing and promoting equity in every aspect of business operations, including playing an active role in addressing Chicago’s violence. This could include investing in a diverse, job-ready workforce, creating opportunities for training and advancement, providing fair and reliable schedules and benefits that reduce the racial wealth gap such as a living wage, health care and retirement benefits.
  • Philanthropy: Committing to examine how grantmaking—with an explicit equity lens—can improve outcomes. For instance, in 2017 the Field Foundation of Illinois shifted to grantmaking with equity as a core value. Embedded in this change is an emphasis on funding with a racial equity lens by allocating 60 percent of grant dollars to organizations by, for, and about serving ALAANA (African, Latino, Asian, Arab and Native American) individuals and communities throughout the Chicago area.
  • Civic and Community Organizations: Both ensuring that not only external programming addresses inequities and turning the equity lens inward to examine and reconfigure hiring, promotions, board composition and decision-making structures.
  • Individuals: Understanding and counteracting on our own internal biases as well as better recognizing of the structures of oppression in which we all operate. Some areas of self-reflection and work needed may include biases about race, sexual orientation, gender, age and level of ability. Further, we have an individual responsibility to make decisions that break down, rather than add to, our region’s patterns of segregation and disinvestment, such as where we live, what businesses we support and where we send our children to school.

These institutions and individuals have worked together to create oppressive systems. They—and we—will have to work together to dismantle them.

How it would work

Steps to a racial equity framework for institutional change include:

  • Build knowledge and capacity agency by agency, department by department: All staff—from teachers to police officers to judges to medical personnel—receive implicit bias and individual/systemic racism awareness training and it is also a required component of new staff orientation. Staff self-select to be part of each agency’s or department’s “Change Team.” These groups receive initial and ongoing training, and lead in-department use of racial equity assessment tools. Attention is paid to Change Teams reflecting a range of positions, race, gender, etc. to ensure the work is embraced throughout the organization.
  • Use racial equity assessment in decision making: Tools are employed immediately to analyze disparate impacts by race and plan accordingly on the front end, such as in proposed budgets, ordinances or other policy changes and in practices such as hiring and contracting. Measurable indicators of success/impact over time are created for accountability.

The Racial Equity Tool[1] is a simple set of questions:

  • Proposal: What is the policy, program, practice or budget decision under consideration? What are the desired results and outcomes?
  • Data: What does the data tell us about the problem or the solution? When we disaggregate data by race and income, what does that tell us?
  • Community engagement: How have communities—especially those most impacted—been engaged? Are there opportunities to expand engagement?
  • Analysis and strategies: Who will benefit from or be burdened by the proposal? What are the strategies for advancing racial equity or mitigating unintended consequences?
  • Implementation: What is the plan for implementation?
  • Accountability and communication: What is the plan to ensure accountability, communicate and evaluate results, especially to and for those most impacted?

Where this is working: Elevated Chicago

Elevated Chicago is a collaborative of nonprofit, governmental and business organizations, created to promote racial equity through public health, arts and culture and climate change resiliency in Chicago’s neighborhoods. By focusing on equitable transit-oriented development, Elevated Chicago is improving neighborhoods—without displacing current residents—by attracting and aligning capital, supporting community-driven interventions, changing policies and narratives, and sharing knowledge.

Here’s how Elevated Chicago has embodied racial equity in its approach and practices:

  • Its 16-member steering committee, working groups and community-based tables all include people of color in leadership positions and representation of organizations based in majority-African-American and majority-Latino communities.
  • All Steering Committee members and their proxies have received racial equity training and an individual and collective assessment of their cultural competency followed by one-on-one coaching.
  • All participating organizations have made a commitment to values and rules of engagement that promote diversity, inclusion and equity in meetings, decision-making and learning opportunities, and meeting agendas include explicit rules of engagement. Co-chairs have been appointed to ensure they are used.
  • All capital investments and programmatic grants are designed to benefit primarily the communities where Elevated Chicago works (all of which are majority-African-American or majority-Latino). Applicants must demonstrate meaningful community engagement in all funding proposals.
  • Elevated Chicago has also made a commitment to compensate organizations that increase diversity and racial equity within the collaborative. A pool of funds has been set aside to make flexible grants to community-based organizations led by and/or serving people of color. The dollars can be used as stipends to pay for the time devoted to Elevated Chicago work by leaders and staff of these organizations, and for associated costs (such as travel, parking, meals, daycare costs, etc.) and to ensure that the voice and power of community residents of color is represented authentically, inclusively and effectively. 

Elevated Chicago acknowledges that, like many other organizations and collaboratives, it is on a journey to become more diverse, inclusive and equitable and that there is much more to do to ensure full diversity, inclusion and equity in its work.

Back to agenda index

Roadmap to Equity Part 2:
Pursue policies and programs that can be implemented right now

Elevated Chicago promotes inclusive development near transit stations

Joanna Trotter and Juan Carlos Linares

Elevated Chicago partners Juan Carlos Linares and Joanna Trotter outside the Logan Square Blue Line Station, one of the collaborative’s focus areas.

Chicago is at a crossroads: Rapid development and gentrification pressures some communities, in many cases near transit stations.

Alongside new investment, rising prices displace residents and small businesses. While we are at a crossroads, this is also a moment of opportunity. We can leverage development for the benefit of longtime residents and the preservation of unique local culture.

One technique is transit-oriented development. That’s the work of Elevated Chicago, a partnership of organizations committed to transforming the half-mile radius around transit stations into hubs of opportunity and connection across our region’s vast transit system.

Elevated Chicago uses the spaces around transit stations as the tool through which to tackle our region’s biggest issues: segregation, inequity, displacement and gentrification.

“As we look along one of our region’s greatest assets, our transit lines, we see stark disparities. [Elevated Chicago] is one way to tackle them,” says Joanna Trotter, Senior Program Officer of Economic and Community Development for The Chicago Community Trust. “The people being displaced are the ones who need [transit] the most.”

“Transit, particularly like the Logan Square Stop, should always be an inclusive amenity,” said Juan  Carlos Linares, Executive Director of the Latin United Community Housing Association (LUCHA), a nonprofit on Chicago’s northwest side that works in affordable housing development and housing counseling.

Trotter and Linares participate in Elevated Chicago, whose unique power-sharing structure gives community residents and people of color the same power and influence as funders and heads of city departments.

While growing the power-sharing model is important work, Trotter recognizes that more efforts like Elevated Chicago are essential. “As a system, there are inequities that have lasted for decades,” Trotter says. “We’ve still got work to do in Chicagoland.”

1. Targeting economic development and inclusive growth

Inclusive growth is a process that encourages long-run growth by improving the productivity of individuals and firms in order to raise local living standards (prosperity) for all (inclusion).[2]

The Chicago region needs an inclusive growth strategy to maximize the ability of all people and places in the region to contribute to and benefit from the economy. Building a more inclusive economy will produce benefits for everyone by tackling the racial and economic inequities that are currently undermining our ability to grow. Putting the region on a higher growth and prosperity trajectory cannot be accomplished by any single solution. Rather, it requires a sustained commitment to systems change across a multi-sector group of organizations and leaders committed to making our economy work for everyone, including through redirecting existing funds to more inclusive uses. The impacts of this important shift aren’t likely to be seen immediately, but are nonetheless essential to unlocking new, wealth-producing economic opportunities for low-income and communities of color, and—by extension—helping the region overall prosper.

Neighborhood Opportunity Fund Entrepreneur Skyler Dees

Skyler Dees

Neighborhood Opportunity Fund entrepreneur Skyler Dees in his new storefront space.

Skyler Dees began cooking when he was two years old. It’s a passion that drove the 27 year-old North Lawndale native to become a self-taught chef. “As I thought about entering the workforce, I realized that I could cook,” he says. “And more important, it fulfilled me.”

Dees wanted to start his own catering business. But, like many entrepreneurs of color in Chicago, he soon realized he was up against numerous social and economic challenges. It was a reality that made his dream seem almost impossible.

“The personal equity that I had in my company could only get me so far,” Dees says.

With the help of Alderman Michael Scott of the 24th Ward, Dees acquired a storefront space at the MLK Legacy Apartments. The building, which is just steps away from where Dees grew up, is located right along a stretch of 16th Street that offers few healthy and fresh food options. A GoFundMe campaign was the first step in launching his business. And even though he secured more than $2,000 in donations, it wasn’t nearly close to what he needed.

That changed in May 2017 when he won the inaugural City of Chicago Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, a grant that Dees used to help build out a commercial kitchen. It’ll take $75,000 for Dees to complete the buildout, including the installation of professional cooking and refrigeration equipment. The Neighborhood Opportunity Fund grant is paying approximately 65 percent of the total cost.

“It definitely helped me bridge the gap between what I was doing with my company and what I had the potential to achieve,” he says.

Launched in 2016 by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund generates money from downtown growth to support commercial and cultural developments in communities that have experienced underinvestment for decades, primarily on the South and West Sides. Since then, it’s supported the development and expansion of more than 60 businesses and cultural assets. The additional capital has been a game changer for Dees and other awardees, but he hopes to see more investments in communities across Chicago.

“It’s allowed me to have equity in the future that Chicago is building,” Skyler says. “But there’s so much work that needs to be done.”

  • Establish a graduated real estate transfer tax

    Implement a graduated city real estate transfer tax to generate additional revenue in a progressive manner.

    Geography: City of Chicago

    “Economic development has to be seen as human capital development, the two have to be seen in concert.”

    —J. Brian Malone, Executive Director, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO)


    In typical real estate transactions within Chicago, a transfer tax is charged by the State of Illinois, Cook County and the City of Chicago. 50 percent of the real estate transfer tax (RETT) revenue collected by the State of Illinois is deposited into the Illinois Housing Trust Fund (IAHTF), which is administered by the Illinois Housing Development Authority.3 The IAHTF provides flexible gap financing for affordable rental and for-sale housing across the state.

    Federal resources are critical for local and state governments who rely on these funds to provide services from housing, to transportation, education, health and other supports for residents. Historically, federal funds have comprised about one-third of state budgets.4 With these funds increasingly at risk at the federal level, our region, like many others, will need to identify other innovative proposals to meet local housing needs in an equitable manner.


    Implement a graduated city real estate transfer tax to generate additional revenue in a progressive manner.

    How it would work

    Currently, the City imposes a RETT of $5.25 per $500 of property sale value ($3.75 goes to the City and $1.50 to CTA). According to analysis by the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, under a graduated rate structure as proposed below, nearly 95 percent of property transactions citywide would receive a tax cut on the sale of properties.

    Taxable valueRate structure

    Under the proposed graduated structure, the first $500,000 in value would be taxed at the 0.35 percent rate and the incremental value beyond would be taxed according to the rate structures noted above. As a home rule municipality, the City of Chicago would need referendum approval in order to make the proposed changes to the RETT structure. The proposed graduated RETT would generate an estimated $100–$185 million in additional revenue beyond the current transfer tax. The revenues would be used to pay for services such as addressing homelessness, supporting affordable homeownership through programs like New Homes for Chicago and establishing a city-based Earned Income Tax Credit.

  • Prioritize and measure economic growth that creates opportunities for everyone

    Collaborate to establish a common approach to inclusive growth.

    Geography: Chicago Region

    “Economic development has to be seen as human capital development, the two have to be seen in concert.”

    —Jawanza Brian Malone, Executive Director, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO)


    While the Chicago region seeks and tracks economic growth, we do so without explicit focus on jobs that help workers achieve both employment stability and upward mobility. Currently, any job growth may seem like a win—but if growth is mainly in low-wage jobs without stable schedules, it advances neither inclusive growth nor a healthy labor market. Another factor to consider is the distribution of job growth; while the number of jobs in the Loop, Near North Side and Near West Side increased by 65,000 from 2010 to 2015, jobs in those communities held by South and West side residents decreased. In short, we lack a coordinated goal for growing an inclusive economy that deliberately advances businesses and workers of color and the metrics to evaluate progress. Establishing inclusive growth metrics will not change segregation on its own, but it will encourage organizations and leaders across the region toward a common goal and means of measuring progress towards it.


    Local and regional organizations, governments and leaders should collaborate to establish a common approach to inclusive growth, along with metrics to measure progress and criteria by which to evaluate future investments. These metrics will prioritize opportunities that have a real impact, including the extent to which the entire population is participating in growth and prosperity, such as through employment, particularly among key segments of the population by race and ethnicity.

    How it would work

    The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), World Business Chicago and Local Initiatives Support Corporation would initiate the process of outlining a shared vision for inclusive growth, including defining shared goals and metrics for inclusive growth in the Chicago region.

    Case study

    The Minneapolis-St. Paul Regional Economic Development Partnership recently launched a Regional Indicators Dashboard,[5] a detailed set of measures that can be tracked over time to assess the strength of the regional economy in providing inclusive growth. The dashboard reflects the efforts of multiple organizations and leaders to agree on common performance outcomes and then track and share progress.


    By 2020, government and civic leaders will commit to a common set of performance measures to evaluate the region’s yearly progress on jobs, education and income for people across racial and economic backgrounds. Minneapolis’ dashboard initiative has been tracking performance outcomes such as the graduation rates for white students and students of color, and the employment gap in the region between white residents and residents of color. Between 2015 and 2017, they noted a closing of the latter gap, from thirteen percentage points to ten percentage points. Adopting a similar tracking system in the Chicagoland region would 1) allow policymakers to understand which aspects of inclusive growth merit the most immediate attention and 2) illuminate efforts which are already working well and should be leveraged.

  • Invest equitably across the region

    Focus investment in targeted areas with existing infrastructure assets.

    Geography: Chicago Region


    Disinvestment is costly and too many of our region’s communities of color—especially on the South and West Sides of Chicago and Cook County, as well as in areas in and around Waukegan, Aurora, Elgin and Joliet—have experienced long-term job and population loss, increased violence and an inability to attract businesses and other investments. In many other parts of the nation, regional reinvestment goals have created a spark for economic stabilization and growth in target areas for investment. This approach has succeeded in such diverse regions as San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta and northwest Indiana.


    Focus investment in targeted areas with existing infrastructure assets, such as transit, to bring growth to areas that have experienced prolonged disinvestment.

    How it would work

    How it would work: CMAP would establish a Targeted Reinvestment Area (TRA) program as part of the ON TO 2050 plan, as currently proposed in the plan’s preliminary recommendations. MPC would work in partnership with CMAP and other advocacy organizations to ensure that the program is locally driven, involves a wide range of agencies that invest in infrastructure, and work with disinvested communities to implement investments without displacement.

    Case study

    The Livable Centers Initiative (LCI), managed by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), has focused transportation investment into target geographies, typically transit-oriented urban and suburban downtowns. LCI funds are prioritized for areas that fall within the “high to very high” zones of ARC’s Equitable Target Areas Index.[6] Since 2000, $172 million in transportation funding has been directed to these areas, mainly for active transportation improvements.[7] With this targeted infrastructure investment has come 77,000 new housing units since 2000, many of them multi-family, accompanied by nearly 90 million square feet of office and commercial space.[8]


    Establishment of a program that directs funds to targeted communities will allow for already-existing assets in disinvested areas to be leveraged and expanded. As noted in ON TO 2050’s preliminary land-use recommendations, “focusing resources in areas that are a local priority can make the best use of constrained funding. By strategically targeting investments toward community main streets and regional economic centers where infrastructure already exists, we can maximize the impact both of those new expenditures and of the earlier ones when such areas were originally developed.”

  • Make vacant lands an asset

    Build capacity among community-based organizations and suburban municipalities to redevelop vacant land.

    Geography: Cook county and one South and one West side community near a CTA transit station

    “There’s a ton of vacant land, but there hasn’t always been much of a vision or thought of what may come after it. ‘Let’s just tear it down because the building is an eye sore’…There hasn’t been a lot of follow through with what can happen with our vacant land.”

    —Pete Saunders, Calumet City Economic Development Coordinator


    After a century of deliberate disinvestment through redlining, contract selling and predatory loans, coupled with more recent deindustrialization, many communities on the West and South sides of the City and Cook County have a concentrated inventory of vacant, foreclosed and tax-delinquent properties.[9] The Cook County Land Bank alone has over 18,000 properties in their pipeline, including residential, industrial, commercial, and vacant lots. Vacancies have a profound negative impact on communities, including a higher incidence of criminal activity and higher levels of stress and anxiety among residents.[10] If harnessed strategically, however, vacant land and property can also be an asset and an opportunity to proactively redesign a community’s participation in the regional economy.


    Recommendation: Build capacity among community-based organizations and suburban municipalities to enter into targeted land banking agreements with Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA) and South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority (SSLBDA) to redevelop vacant land. Particularly in the South Suburbs, create new types of development entities with the forms, capacities and powers to impact a wide range of development sectors (e.g., real estate, workforce development, supply chain and cluster growth, etc.).[11]

    How it would work

    CCLBA and SSLBDA have the ability to enter into land banking agreements with community organizations and municipalities. Under this agreement, communities determine a strategy and plan for the vacant land and work with the land bank to have them hold or “bank” vacant land or properties within a given geography for an agreed upon time period. Communities would take the lead in setting the vision for the land, but would be provided technical assistance around developing a strategy, building capacity around a community-ownership model, if desired, and identifing funding and capital sources. Vacant land could be transformed into community facilities, open space, retail development or housing.

    Case study

    Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI), in efforts to increase homeownership in the Pullman neighborhood, acquires and rehabs vacant properties. This process, however, can present challenges—such as finding owners of abandoned properties, acquiring properties clear from taxes and other encumbrances. To help with these efforts, CNI partnered with the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA) to enter into a community land banking agreement. CCLBA acquires and maintains properties on behalf of CNI and, for a nominal fee per property, holds them until CNI is prepared to apply for Low Income Housing Tax Credits to rehab the properties. Through this partnership, CNI can leverage the authority and powers of the CCLBA to ultimately take ownership of these properties, drive community investment and build stable homeownership in the Pullman neighborhood.


    Putting vacant land and properties to productive use saves municipalities money they would otherwise pay for upkeep and maintenance, provides increased tax revenue and public safety and mental health benefits for community residents. If vacant land is successfully converted to a jobs-generating use, the local and regional economy benefits as well. Community ownership models, such as land trusts, provide opportunities to build sustainable, affordable homeownership and equips community stakeholders to guide decision-making around future development. Assuming conversion of 50 vacant Land Bank parcels across one South Side and one West Side neighborhood—resulting in 25 residential developments in each—we estimate property tax generation of approximately $153,300 per year in the aggregate.

  • Improve health through publicly funded development

    Any government entity issuing public requests for proposals requires developers bidding on the RFP to detail how the proposed development will positively impact health in the surrounding community.

    Geography: Region


    For many residents of low-income communities of color, continual disinvestment has resulted not only in reduced incomes and educational attainment, but also in poor health outcomes. Due to inequitable distribution of resources, low-income areas and communities of color are more likely to lack resources that promote health, such as affordable high-quality housing, green space, retail options (grocery stores and other) and gyms.[12] As such, those who live in in low-income and communities of color have worse health outcomes than those in areas that are affluent and white: In Chicago, for example, people living in Washington Park will die 14 years earlier, on average, than those in adjacent, more affluent Hyde Park.[13] Traditionally, development in disinvested areas has attempted to solve for rent burden or employment needs, but rarely for health deficits. Many tools exist for assessing the health of a community and determining how the built environment can improve individual or community health, such as Enterprise Community Partners’ Opportunity 360[14] and the WELL Building Standard guide.[15] Explicitly making health criteria part of evaluation for development with public land and/or public money can encourage development that not only does not add to health disparities but proactively prioritizes health.


    Any proposal seeking government-owned land or government money must detail the range of ways the proposed development will impact health in the surrounding community.

    How it would work

    Taking the example of a department issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP),  the RFP/RFQ packet would include health information for every publicly funded project, and require developers to state the positive and negative effects the proposed development will have on the health of the surrounding neighborhood. The issuing department will consider health impacts among the deciding criteria. Health considerations can be as direct as an industrial user committing to use electric trucks to reduce emissions and respiratory risk, or as broad as including a large amount of affordable housing to help prevent displacement. In Chicago, this strategy aligns with and moves forward the Health in All Policies Task Force recommendation of including health criteria in public RFPs,[16] and the Chicago Department of Public Health could provide health impact data customized for each RFP.

    Case study

    The Cook County Land Bank recently partnered with the Metropolitan Planning Council and the Chicago Department of Public Health to conduct a participatory planning process for the redevelopment of a vacant Woodlawn building. The process included sharing health data with residents and eliciting which health values and needs could be addressed and improved by development features of the building. CDPH and MPC then analyzed residents’ scenarios to determine the health benefits of each. Ultimately, CCLB will use recommendations from this process to build an RFP that reflects the priorities of the community.


    Ultimately, including health in development can improve health outcomes. For example, if truly affordable housing is developed with adequate safety and lighting in a walkable neighborhood, that could lead to significant prevention of or decrease in Type II diabetes rates among residents who begin walking regularly, ultimately saving an average of $7,900 per person per year on medical costs.[17]

  • Use equity as a key measure for transportation planning efforts

    Adopt equity as a performance measure in planning and evaluating transportation services and investments.

    Geography: Chicago region


    Cities and regions often use equity as a standard when making decisions about housing, economic development and other aspects of our built environment. However, when making transportation decisions in greater Chicago, historically there has been little consideration of equity in project development and prioritization. Safety, delay reduction and ridership are often prioritized, and as a result, transportation investments are likely to be made in areas of affluence with established economic activity. Smart, targeted and equitable transportation investments can generate enormous benefits such as increased access to jobs and healthier, more sustainable communities.


    Adopt equity as a performance measure in planning and evaluating transportation services and investments.

    How it would work

    MPC will work with public agencies that prioritize transportation investments to recommend ways to incorporate equity-oriented project prioritization criteria and evaluate their effectiveness. CMAP is laying the groundwork for such considerations through its identification of Economically Disconnected Areas and proposed use of some equity-oriented criteria in the ON TO 2050 long-range plan. Councils of Mayors receiving federal Surface Transportation Program (STP) funds can select from six ON TO 2050 criteria as part of their project programming process, one of which is equity oriented. Additionally, the Councils of Mayors and the City of Chicago have established a new shared fund that is meant to pay for larger, transformative projects that individual STP allotments would not be able to cover. CMAP and the Councils of Mayors are in the process of developing prioritization criteria for this new allotment, which can be informed by this research. MPC will review best practices from other regions for incorporation of equity into transportation project prioritization that can be adopted in the region, and MPC will potentially develop new options. Additionally, as new methods of prioritizing projects including equity-oriented criteria are implemented, it will be important to conduct regular evaluations of the results of these new processes and make ongoing refinements to achieve desired outcomes. Therefore, MPC will also review best practices for conducting equity-oriented evaluation of planned projects and recommend a framework for future evaluations.

    Case study

    For Plan Bay Area 2040, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission conducted a geographic and socioeconomic equity analysis of transportation conditions. The analysis considered whether and how certain transportation conditions disproportionately affect certain areas of the city and/or disadvantaged communities. The analysis provides insight into the types of metrics that should be considered in developing equity-oriented criteria and how their outcomes can be evaluated.


    Explicit consideration of equity in planning for transportation investments is expected to result in a better transportation access and outcomes for residents of communities with low-income and non-white populations, who generally have longer commutes. Evaluation of application of new equity criteria will determine whether their use is resulting in increased equity in transportation outcomes throughout the Chicago region.

  • Help local governments build capacity needed to thrive

    Develop tailored initiatives to increase municipal capacity, equipping smaller and lower-income communities to more effectively address their unique challenges.

    Geography: Chicago region


    A decade ago, 60 percent of our region’s poverty was in the city of Chicago. Today, it’s less than half. But in the suburbs and nearby cities, poverty is on the rise. Our projections show this shift to rising poverty outside the city of Chicago will continue at least through 2030. This demographic change places new and difficult responsibilities on suburban communities, particularly in areas like south Cook County where poverty rates have risen most significantly.

    The Chicago region contains 283 municipalities outside Chicago, including more than 130 in Cook County alone. Many smaller, low-income municipalities have found the need for constituent services rising at the same time that deindustrialization has depleted their tax base. The result: High property tax rates in places that are already struggling to attract economic development. Many municipalities are forced by their fiscal situations to defer infrastructure maintenance, cut back on basic services and limit proactive planning for the future. At the same time, they lack the staff capacity to apply for and manage grants that could help them solve their problems, let alone investigate cost-saving service sharing arrangements with their neighbors.


    Develop tailored initiatives to increase municipal capacity, equipping smaller and lower-income communities to address their unique challenges. Likely assistance includes legal advice on service-sharing agreements, training programs for municipal decision-makers, networking programs for municipal staff, review and analysis of development proposals and many others.

    How it would work

    To address this range of issues, in fall 2017, MPC and the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) released a strategy paper on municipal capacity.[18] MPC will coordinate with CMAP and other groups such as the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus to design a program to build municipal capacity, seek startup and sustainable funding to support it and launch a program by the end of 2018.


    Many small, predominantly low-income suburban communities in Cook County have been able to proactively plan for their futures as a result of CMAP’s Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program. As of December 2017, CMAP has worked across the region to complete 135 projects, including comprehensive plans, zoning ordinances and similar products for lower-income communities including Chicago Heights, North Chicago, Park Forest, Richton Park and many others.

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CIBC helps entrepreneurs launch businesses


Dr. Latasha Taylor and her mother, Marilyn Sturden, opened Flammin in the Chatham neighborhood with the help of CIBC’s Shantel Hampton (center).

As an assistant principal of a Chicago vocational school, Dr. Latasha Taylor interacts daily with young people eager for jobs. These days, Taylor offers jobs directly—thanks to Flammin, a restaurant she opened in Chicago’s Chatham neighborhood in October 2017 with her mother, Marilyn Sturden.

“I have employed six part-time workers from the Chicago Public Schools system. I also employ…recent graduates who live in this area code, 60619,” Taylor says. “Some of them don’t have families, so we are like their extended family. It gives them hope to be an entrepreneur one day themselves.”

Taylor and Sturden opened Flammin with the help of CIBC Bank USA, formerly The PrivateBank, which was acquired by CIBC in 2017. CIBC continued The PrivateBank’s commitment to investing in communities through loan products for people who might otherwise have trouble accessing capital, people like Marilyn and Latasha. Flammin’s famous Kool-Aid and fried mustard catfi sh, the beautiful interior and glistening kitchen equipment, were all made possible thanks in part to CIBC’s investments in Chicagoland entrepreneurs.

Shantel Hampton is a Relationship Manager in community small business lending with CIBC. As a child of an entrepreneur, Hampton says that her work with CIBC improves people’s lives, which strengthens the fabric of society.

“Small businesses make up the majority of all businesses in America,” Hampton says. “If we can give owners the… capital they need to start and grow, we’re going to give jobs to people. We’re going to help people own their homes and go to school. It’ll change the economic structure of an entire community.”

In Chatham, that’s true for Flammin: The restaurant offers employment, a safe gathering space and a vibrant storefront that anchors the restaurant’s small stretch of 75th Street. And of course, mouth-watering ribs.

Aon’s apprentice program with Chicago’s City Colleges

Juan Salgado and Bridget Gainer

Juan Salgado and Bridget Gainer launched an apprentice program at Aon, employing hundreds of Chicago youth.

Chicago’s youth are the future of our city’s workforce. Yet not all of our young people are given pathways to participate.

It’s the problem Aon, a global professional services firm, and the City Colleges of Chicago set out to solve. In 2017, they pioneered a new apprenticeship program that recruits local high school graduates for positions that traditionally have gone to those with bachelor’s degrees. At the end of the two-year program, apprentices earn an associate’s degree, likely receive an offer for a full-time, permanent position, and graduate debt-free.

“At Aon we realized that our talent pool for smart, hardworking and dedicated employees is much, much larger if we go beyond recruiting those with four-year degrees,” said Bridget Gainer, Vice President of Global Public Affairs for Aon and a Commissioner on the Cook County Board. “Working with City Colleges is an important talent strategy, but it’s also an opportunity strategy: Chicago is a city ripe with opportunity and our all our young people should be able to attain it.”  

Aon isn’t the only company implementing these programs and next year more than 400 apprentices will be working and learning and on the pathway to good paying careers.

“These apprentice programs are game changers,” said Juan Salgado, Chancellor of Chicago’s City Colleges. “They open doors to every single neighborhood in our city, and our students enter with a desire and drive to learn, grow and be a part of the workplace.”

It’s a strategy that’s making Chicago’s workforce more inclusive. “I believe everyone in our city, especially our young people, have a vision that’s more inclusive and less segregated than previous generations,” Chancellor Salgado observed. “If we listen to them and organize for their success, we’ll see them succeed at rates never seen before.”

2. Creating jobs and building wealth

“All of the areas that we work on are determinants of future wealth creation. Ultimately, when you get a certain level of education, your capacity to make money increases…We believe in focusing on the basic determinants of a good quality life.”

—Katya Nuques, Executive Director, ENLACE Chicago

All Chicagoans deserve the chance to create new opportunities and wealth within the new economy. Research shows that a 10 percent increase in metropolitan employment levels can raise average real earnings per person by approximately four percent, gains that are greater in percentage terms for African-Americans and lower-income individuals.[19]

While a growing economy provides the simple foundation for expanding opportunity and prosperity for all residents, the way the region grows has the greatest impact on inclusivity goals. For example, an advanced economy with pioneering industries and tradable sectors offers better pay and opportunities for upward mobility, yet female, African-American and Latino workers remain underrepresented in tradable industries and the STEM workforce.[20] Our policy recommendations ensure that all individuals benefit from economic growth through better quality jobs and increasing wealth

Workforce development for at-risk Chicagoans

Andre Campbell

“When people are blocking and tackling the challenges of poverty, they’re often times blocking and tackling all kinds of other stuff as well. Whatever their challenges, there are lots of them. So it’s not just about the job, it’s about the whole person.”

—Maria Kim, President and CEO of Cara

Drugs and gun violence have long plagued communities across Chicago, and  West Side neighborhoods like Garfield Park and Austin have been the hardest hit by the spike in shootings.

Andre Campbell, a 20-year-old native of Austin, knows this narrative all too well. It was a road that he saw himself going down. “You see drug dealers and gangbangers where I’m from,” Campbell says. “That influenced me to get a job because I didn’t want to fall victim to the streets myself.”

In 2017, Campbell learned about Cleanslate, a social enterprise that provides paid transitional jobs to at-risk Chicagoans. It’s changed his life.

“I have a struggling family. We’re constantly trying to make ends meet,” he says. “Before this, I had nothing.”

 Cleanslate is part of Cara, a nonprofit agency dedicated to strengthening communities. Since 1991, Cara has helped people affected by homelessness and poverty get back to work. Because securing a job is only the first step at finding real success and stability, Cara focuses on job retention and building the life skills of its participants.

“When people are blocking and tackling the challenges of poverty, they’re often times blocking and tackling all kinds of other stuff as well,” says Maria Kim, the President and CEO of Cara. “Whatever their challenges, there are lots of them. So it’s not just about the job, it’s about the whole person.”

Kim adds that while Cleanslate participants clean streets, the importance of their work goes beyond their daily tasks: They’re ambassadors for the communities in which they live and serve. For Campbell, the program has been a pathway to secure a full-time job in Environmental Services at Lurie Children’s Hospital, and he can now afford a place for him and his mom to live.

“What Cleanslate has meant to me is a better life and an opportunity to better myself,” he says.

  • Develop employer leadership to grow a pipeline of young skilled workers

    Develop employer leadership in strengthening the talent pipeline.

    Geography: City of Chicago and Cook County

    “A lot of manufacturing jobs that used to be prevalent in this area are gone…they were low-skilled, but high paying jobs. We have a lot of people in our region that could benefit from workforce development.”

    —Pete Saunders, Calumet City Economic Development Coordinator


    High unemployment rates and low educational attainment are exacerbated by the concentration of poverty and crime in many segregated communities of color. According to UIC’s Great Cities Institute, the percent of youth ages 16 to 19 and 20 to 24 that are out of school and out of work, with no high school diploma, is 33.9 percent and 21.2 percent respectively, with African American and Latino youth more negatively impacted than white youth.[21]

    Despite these bleak statistics, well-paid jobs exist. While recent reports cite the growing number of jobs in health care and in transportation and logistics (TDL), there is also difficulty filling many of these positions and a growing need to better connect both 1) neighborhoods to these clusters and 2) residents with the skill sets for jobs in these sectors.

    On the workforce side, segmentation helps to identify the most promising pathways to living-wage employment. That is, the barriers to employment and work-readiness for “opportunity youth” (between the ages of 16 and 24 and neither in school nor working) may be worlds apart from the challenges for “middle skill adults” (age 25 and up, with some education and workforce experience). Both may be un- or under-employed, but likely have very different paths forward. High-risk disconnected youth often need immediate employment coupled with services and support to successfully sustain entry-level employment. Growing industries like health care and TDL often require industry-specific certifications that can be elusive due to required education thresholds, criminal background screenings and financial barriers posed by extended continuing education programs.


    We echo the recommendation of JPMorgan Chase in its 2015 report, Growing Skills for a Growing Chicago: “Develop employer leadership in strengthening the talent pipeline. Industry leaders and the workforce system should coordinate to define joint goals for improving the talent pipeline and creating opportunities for career advancement. Employers should also invest in designing and implementing education and training programs that address their current and projected labor needs.”[22]

    Every group we spoke with that is working intensively with opportunity youth said that they need a stronger commitment from the private sector to co-developing training and hiring graduates of their programs. Overall, we strongly recommend that the private sector elevates its board-level racial equity goals from supplier, service and employee diversity to also include a commitment to reducing Chicago’s violence through pathways to employment.

    Case study

    An initiative related to the Illinois Future Energy Job Act (FEJA) is an example of successful cross-sector collaborations to enhance job opportunities. Illinois partnered with ComEd to grant $30 million to six Chicago organizations to implement job training to prepare underserved residents for future energy jobs.4 As a result, the program aims to place 2000 new solar installers, increase access to electrical apprenticeships through IBEW instruction in targeted high schools and community colleges and support the incubation of new clean energy business owned and operated by people of color.


    If even half of the 21,518 unemployed youth in Chicago obtained a job that paid somewhere between minimum wage and the median hourly wage ($19.31), then the local economy would see a boost of anywhere from $268 million to $432 million in wages. Furthermore, if these youth also obtained their high school diploma or equivalent, then they would each contribute $197,055 more dollars in average annual taxes paid over a lifetime of work (45 years) than if they had not received their diploma. In the aggregate, this would produce $2.1 billion for the local economy.[23]

  • Build wealth early through matched child savings accounts

    Advance legislation to create a universal Child Savings Account (CSA) program in Illinois.

    Geography: State

    “Children’s Savings Accounts programs that automatically open college savings accounts for all children with a seed deposit, particularly when accompanied with matched savings for low-income families, can change the trajectory of a child’s life. They unleash children’s potential, support early childhood development, put them on a pathway to college and reduce the racial wealth divide”

    —Jody Blaylock, Senior Policy Associate with Heartland Alliance


    Research shows that child savings accounts have life-long impacts. Children with savings experience higher social-emotional skills, higher math and reading skills and an increased likelihood that they will attend and graduate college. Benefits are even greater for low- and moderate-income children: Children with even just $500 in college savings are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate from college than low- and moderate-income children without savings.[24]

    Yet, low-income families in Illinois face a number of challenges to building savings for higher education including having to cover other immediate expenses, debt repayment and gaps in financial education.[25]


    The General Assembly should advance legislation to create a universal Child Savings Account (CSA) program in Illinois to automatically open at birth for every child born in Illinois.

    How it would work

    Heartland Alliance and the Illinois Asset Building Group, along with parent leaders and organizers statewide, led efforts to craft CSA legislation, introduced in 2017, based on recommendations generated by a bipartisan task force. Under this proposed legislation, every child born in Illinois would be provided a 529 college savings account. Administered by the Illinois State Treasurer’s Office, the accounts would be seeded with $50 and matched savings would be provided 1:1 for low-income families for up to $75 per year. Cities and counties could supplement this with additional matched savings, including partnering with philanthropic organizations to provide the match. These funds can used to pay for qualified post-secondary education expenses.


    When targeted to low-income families, these incentives have a profound impact on increasing wealth in the region. According to an analysis of the proposed legislation, it could reduce the racial wealth gap for young adults by as much as 31.7 percent.[26] Estimates suggest cumulative savings accruing to existing low-income 18–34 year-old Bright Start beneficiaries would grow by at least $5 million. Even amongst the lowest-income Bright Start savers—those households making under $30,000 a year—adoption of the new program could result in average savings increases of $1,865 for Latino beneficiaries, and $1,855 for African-American beneficiaries.

  • Adopt a city earned income tax credit (EITC)

    Establish a City Earned Income Tax Credit for working households to augment the pre-existing federal and state EITCs.

    Geography: City of Chicago


    The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was designed to help low-wage workers get ahead. Simply put, it is a key component of our nation’s safety net. Census data shows that in 2013, the federal EITC kept 6.2 million people, including 3.2 million children, out of poverty.[27] The success of the federal and state programs have been so widespread that a select few municipalities across the nation have adopted local EITCs to deepen its impact. New York City, Washington, DC and Montgomery County in Maryland have each implemented local EITCs, helping low-income working families keep even more of their hard-earned dollars. In the Chicago region, low-wage workers benefit from a federal and state tax credit, but would benefit even more by expanding the credit to the City-level.


    Recommendation: Establish a City Earned Income Tax Credit for working households to augment the pre-existing federal and state EITCs.

    How it would work

    To create a local Chicago EITC, the Illinois General Assembly must amend the Illinois Income Tax Act 35 ILCS 5/212. Following the lead of other localities like New York City and Montgomery County, MD, a Chicago EITC could be administered through the state’s income tax process, adding a line that calculates a Chicago EITC as a percentage of the Illinois EITC. The credit would be refundable and eligibility guidelines would mirror the current state guidelines. Because the City of Chicago does not have an income tax, it would send reimbursement funding to the State, as it does for other streams of revenue and funding. To increase wealth-building potential, we recommend partnering with Center for Economic Progress and Bank On Chicago to allow for convenient, automatic deposit to a savings vehicle to build and/or repair credit and establish savings, such as an education savings account. A new City EITC should be paired with the state’s program for periodic payments, proven tools to avoid late fees and using payday lenders, as well as for building savings.[28] A graduated real estate transfer tax would not only cover the loss in tax dollars, it would provide a tax break to roughly 95 percent of the City’s homebuyers.


    A 10 percent match of the federal EITC would put up to $600 annually back in more than 293,000 working families’ pocketbooks. Given estimates from Moody’s Analytics on the EITC’s “multiplier effect”[29]—the additional dollars spent throughout the regional economy from every dollar earned from the program—an extra $218 million in spending towards the regional economy on the part of working families would be added. The most recently available data suggests that in tax year 2014, more than 1.85 million New Yorkers received the federal EITC. When the federal, New York State and New York City benefits were combined, the average benefit to working families was over $2,900 per household[30]

    However, in Chicago millions in potential EITC income currently goes unclaimed. An analysis of EITC eligibility filing in 2014—the most recently available data year—reveals that of all community areas, West Lawn, Ashburn, South Lawndale and North Lawndale had the highest number of eligible households. If Chicago had an EITC, assuming a filing rate on par with the state’s (79 percent), we estimate that residents in these 4 areas could receive an additional $11 million in tax credit beyond their federal and state returns.

  • Make jobs accessible to low-income residents

    First, pilot new services in the Chicago region to improve connectivity between employment hubs and low-income communities with low employment.

    Geography: Chicago Region

    “When you are talking about transportation equity, you need to look at the amount of time it takes to get from point x to point y. Some low-income workers are doing one-to-two hour commutes to get to work and the same to get back.”

    —David Luna, Executive Director, Equal Voice Action


    Many of the region’s low-income residents struggle getting to and from their jobs. Car ownership is low and transit options may be limited, slow or not serve relevant employment destinations. Four of the five largest employment centers in the region are poorly served by rapid transit and major employment centers rarely overlap with economically disconnected populations. To support economic mobility in our region, we need new, flexible transportation services that connect underserved populations with employment hubs, especially in suburban areas.


    Pilot new transit services in the Chicago region to improve connectivity between job hubs and low-income communities with low employment. In addition, collaborate with workforce development service providers to determine transportation needs and address them.

    How it would work

    Workforce boards provide counseling and coordinate job placements for individuals who struggle finding employment. Transportation is often a major factor determining which jobs workers can access; long and difficult commutes affect job retention. Conducting focus groups with workforce board counselor and client groups, as well as analyzing data on where people live and work, would help identify specific mobility needs and gaps in knowledge by counselors and job seekers. Once needs are determined, enhanced transportation training for counselors can be developed, potentially through RTA’s Travel Training program. Additionally, with new information about worker needs, new customized transit services can be developed such as providing last-mile transportation from the endpoints of CTA lines and Metra stations.

    Work with employers in areas without good fixed-route transit service or lacking last-mile connections to develop new reverse-commute, suburb-to-suburb routes or last-mile service through partnerships with Pace or private on-demand providers such as Chariot or Via. Work with employers to develop new types of partnerships to enhance transit service and supportive pedestrian infrastructure along arterials where there is employment. Additionally, develop services connecting with termini of CTA lines, such as at the Rosemont Blue Line transportation hub, from which workers need last-mile access to suburban employment.

    Case study

    Transportation Management Association of Lake-Cook: According to the 2017 Annual Report, shuttle service is provided on 13 routes, serving 40 companies to Metra stations on the Milwaukee North, Union Pacific North and the Union Pacific Northwest lines. Ridership for 2017 totaled over 1,000 daily trips.


    Based on TMA of Lake-Cook results, services along another job-rich corridor could provide last-mile transit access to hundreds of employees.

  • Establish a fairer way to pay for transit

    Implement a capped fare system at CTA, Metra and Pace to benefit low-income riders.

    Geography: Chicago Region


    Low-income riders who do not qualify for discounts often struggle to buy a weekly or monthly pass and instead pay for transit as they go, foregoing the discount that comes with bulk purchases. Riders who can’t pay upfront for a $105 monthly pass or $28 weekly pass pay the full fare for every ride and never reach the “free zone” that monthly pass riders have access to.


    Implement a capped fare system for the Chicago Transit Authority, Metra and Pace to better serve low-income riders.

    How it would work

    A fare-capping system would mean that once a Ventra user buys enough single rides within a fare pass period (e.g., week or month) to equal the value of a pass, rides during the rest of the period would be free. This enables frequent riders who cannot afford the upfront cost of a weekly or monthly pass to pay in installments by single-ride payments. The State of Illinois should cover the reduced revenue from any new discount as part of its current program to reimburse CTA, Metra and Pace for fare discounts for persons with disabilities, students, Medicare card holders and military personnel. Unfortunately, the State of Illinois has not fully reimbursed the transit agencies for the past several years,[31] creating a funding shortfall, so a stable reimbursement schedule would be need to be ensured to initiate such a program.

    Case study

    In response to grassroots pressure for a more equitable fare structure, Trimet in Portland is the first major American city to enact a fare capping policy, according to TransitCenter. International transit agencies in cities including London and Dublin have used fare capping for over a decade.


    Anyone whose pay-as-you go transit fare spending exceeds the cost of a weekly or monthly pass will limit transit expenditures to the cost of a pass, which will lower transit costs for some and increase predictability of expenditures.

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Affordable housing builds strong communities

Maria, Fabian, and Raul

Homeowners Maria Cruz Espino and Fabian Espino talk about their experience with the New Homes for Chicago program with Raul Raymundo (center), CEO of The Resurrection Project.

When Maria Cruz Espino and Fabian Espino moved into their brand-new Pilsen home in 1997, they could barely believe their good luck. “The girls were so excited, choosing their rooms,” Maria says.

The Espinos purchased their four-bedroom property through the New Homes For Chicago initiative, launched in 1990 by the City of Chicago to provide low- and moderate-income working families with the opportunity to buy high-quality new houses.

New Homes facilitated the development of city-owned vacant land for low-cost, new housing and provided subsidies for both developers and homebuyers. What once were vacant lots became the sites of families’ dreams.

But the Espinos’ home offered more than a safe, beautiful place to rest their heads. Homeownership is the single greatest wealth-building vehicle for people of color in America, and the Espinos’ property allowed them to grow their assets.

“Many working families do not invest in the stock market. One of the few vehicles by which they can build wealth is by becoming homeowners,” says Raul Raymundo, longtime CEO of The Resurrection Project, a community development non-profit founded in 1990 in order to fight blight and crime in Pilsen.

Through the years, Maria and Fabian watched their children grow up and go to local universities, one by one. They’ve planted tomatoes and jalapeños in their garden while they’ve put down deep roots in Pilsen, a community where rising prices threaten to displace many longtime residents.

Now, more than ever, as prices rise, investments like New Homes For Chicago are critical for Chicagoans. Raul, Maria and Fabian agree: New Homes For Chicago worked for Pilsen, and it can work again.

3. Building inclusive housing and neighborhoods

Nationwide, only one in five households eligible for housing assistance receives it,[32] and the limited tools that we have to produce quality, affordable housing are increasingly in jeopardy. At the same time, the Obama Administration’s 2015 rule on Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing[33] mandated—nearly 50 years after the Fair Housing Act—that municipalities and public housing authorities receiving federal dollars cannot use those funds to perpetuate concentrated poverty.

Throughout the Chicago region, low-income renters and homeowners face the risk of displacement as neighborhoods change or continue in a troubling direction. Some of this displacement comes from rising property values due to gentrification and corresponding increases in rents and property taxes. In other instances, communities are experiencing displacement due to disinvestment: people of color are leaving long-disinvested communities for other parts of the region and country due to inadequate funding for key infrastructure and institutions, including schools, community spaces and health centers.

Our recommendations recognize the need for affordable housing and inclusive community investments across our region, both in opportunity areas and disinvested communities, and everywhere in between. Our approach targets everyone and all communities within our region.

Community organizing unlocks the talents of local residents

James and Dominica

James Rudyk, Jr. and Dominica McBride empower residents to take a more active role in their communities.

Belmont Cragin is changing. The neighborhood on Chicago’s northwest side was once deeply Polish, but now is the fastest growing Latino community in the city of Chicago.

Neighborhoods change faster than policies, knows James Rudyk, Jr., Executive Director of the Northwest Side Housing Center (NWSHC), a local non-profit organization that has worked since 2003 to offer housing counseling, financial education, outreach, advocacy, supportive services, and—perhaps most importantly—community organizing.

“Residents are in the best position to create and lead change because they best understand their community,” says Rudyk. “The days of top-down community development are over. For us, it’s about coming from the grassroots, not the grasstops.”

For Rudyk and NWSHC, the lessons gleaned from community organizing inform a shifting suite of relevant programming, from first-time homebuyer classes, to foreclosure prevention counseling, to a Latina-centered financial education program. The NWSHC provides services in English, Polish, and—increasingly—in Spanish.

“It’s not acceptable to exclude 80% of the Belmont Cragin community that’s Latino,” Rudyk says. “We can no longer accept that.”

Dominica McBride, Founder and CEO of Become: Center for Community Engagement and Social Change, is working with NWSHC to build the organization’s long-term plan in a way that listens to needs, desires, and lived history of locals. McBride ensures that all voices are heard during the organizing process.

Both McBride and Rudyk see that unlocking local residents’ power through organizing offers a potent model for building equity across Chicagoland’s deeply divided neighborhoods.

“We can do this across the city,” McBride says. “We can get across and through that gap that segregation creates and start to be together.”

  • Lessen local control over affordable housing decisions

    Ensure that all communities contribute to the city’s affordable housing needs. Specify that the selection criteria in the Qualified Allocation Plan cannot include consideration of any support for or opposition to a project.

    Geography: Chicago, state

    “If we don’t really think about putting policies in place that preserve affordable housing in areas of opportunity, we will continue to add to the segregation of this city.”

    —Diane Limas, President, Communities United


    Nearly half of adults living in Chicago are spending more than they can afford on their homes or apartments.[34] This cost burden and shortage of affordable housing—especially for low-income residents—is experienced in all 50 wards and 77 community-areas spanning the city of Chicago. In higher-cost areas, the shortage is particularly stark due to local and political opposition, higher costs for land and zoning laws that limit multi-family development. Of the 1,623 affordable housing units created by the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) and Density Bonus fees through 2015, there were zero in nearly two dozen North, Northwest and Southwest side community areas.[35] Evidence shows that the greater the level of involvement by local government and residents in development approval, the greater the segregation.[36]

    At the state level, in order to receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits in support of an affordable housing development, developers must make efforts to obtain some form of local support for the project. This requirement can open developers to significant challenges in advancing a project and potentially deter them from completing the project altogether.


    At the city level, when a residential development with at least 10 percent affordability is proposed in a ward with less than 10 percent affordable housing, the proposed development can no longer be rejected or delayed indefinitely by the Alderman alone. At the state level, remove any requirement from the Qualified Allocation Plan around obtaining local support for projects, including letters of support and certifications of consistency with the Consolidated Plan.

    How it would work

    If a development with a minimum of 10 percent affordable units (targeted at households earning up to 60 percent AMI) is proposed in a ward whose housing stock is less than 10 percent affordable, then the proposed development would automatically go through a streamlined process for approval. In this process, the Alderman can still shape the development and request changes, but no longer has veto power. Enacting a streamlined process would also ensure that projects don’t languish simply by dragging them out over long periods of time, forcing developers to abandon their plans without ever actually being told no.


    While initially supportive of the project, in late 2017 a Northwest Side Alderman began to voice his opposition to a planned 297 unit housing development in his ward, 30 units of which would have been designated as affordable. At his request, the project has been delayed indefinitely. Based upon the work of economist Raj Chetty to quantify the benefits of affordable housing for children of low-income families, we estimate that the loss of affordable housing associated with the project amounts to a loss of ~$762,702 in lifetime earnings, and $135,315 in lost lifetime tax revenue for the would-be beneficiaries. These calculations assume that would-be families in the 30 affordable units would include ~7.7 children under age 8, and ~12.08 children under age 13 as the immediate beneficiaries.

    Case study

    Effective January 1, 2018, California’s Senate Bill 35 mandates cities that have not yet met affordable housing targets to streamline and more quickly approve developments including minimum levels of affordability, even if there is local opposition to them. As the bill’s fact sheet explains:

    When local communities refuse to create enough housing—instead punting housing creation to other communities—then the State needs to ensure that all communities are equitably contributing to regional housing needs. Local control must be about how a community meets its housing goals, not whether it meets those goals. Too many communities either ignore their housing goals or set up processes designed to impede housing creation.

  • Conduct a regional assessment of fair housing

    Conduct a regional Assessment of Fair Housing that coordinates across regional jurisdictions.

    Geography: Chicago, Cook County, ultimately region


    In 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a new rule—and a mapping tool—to help communities address segregation. The new rule requires that any HUD-funded entity must identify the factors that limit the choices of where people live, conduct an analysis of segregation and provide a plan to combat it. The goal was to put measurable standards behind the Fair Housing Act, which affirms that municipalities that receive federal funds for housing must invest them to achieve two keys goals: more opportunities for low-income families who desire to move to high-opportunity neighborhoods and improve areas that experience segregation and disinvestment

    While this new rule, known as Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) is a positive step, in the Chicago region more than 20 entities are currently—and separately—doing this evaluation. Each municipality and agency that receives HUD funding is collecting data, developing their own assessment and making decisions about investments. As a result, these assessments have been completed in a fractured manner, with little coordination and limited consideration of regional impact. The current HUD administration has also delayed submissions until 2020, thus weakening implementation of this long-delayed act.


    Conduct a regional Assessment of Fair Housing that coordinates across regional jurisdictions. HUD should reverse its decision to delay AFH submissions, instead continuing to enforce this rule, including providing assistance to municipalities to complete their assessments and conducting reviews of the AFHs to ensure that they are leading to intended goals.

    How it would work

    As a starting point before a fully regional assessment, leaders from the City of Chicago, Cook County, other HUD-funded municipalities and public housing authorities, with assistance from groups like Enterprise Community Partners and Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance, proceed with plans to pilot a joint City of Chicago-Cook Assessment of Fair Housing.

    Ultimately, jurisdictions and public housing authorities must opt into completing a regional AFH. As part of this, they would embark on every aspect of the AFH in a collaborative manner, from community engagement to data analysis. Data on areas of concentrated poverty, segregation, where existing affordable housing is located, as well as other factors such as education, employment, health and transportation are key issues that regional partners should consider.

    Case study

    In 2016, the City and Housing Authority of New Orleans completed a joint assessment AFH. This assessment has informed changes to the city’s anti-displacement strategy and they are now targeting a portion of its HUD funding ensuring public investments in gentrifying neighborhoods are paired with affordable housing. It has also informed the city’s public transit authority’s Strategic Plan which now prioritizes public land and financial subsidies toward affordable housing development within a ¼ mile of high frequency transit and proficient schools.[37]


    The City of Chicago and Cook County together received nearly $80M in the 2017 funding cycle through the Community Development Block Grant program.[38] Collaboration and coordinated investment at a regional level are critical to addressing historic patterns of segregation, promoting housing choice and addressing disparities. The AFH is a useful tool to encourage jurisdictions to work regionally to address patterns of discrimination and more intentionally connect low-income families to assets like transit, good jobs and high-performing schools. This regional collaboration would help drive more consistent, aligned, collaborative and ultimately, effective planning and investments across jurisdictional, organizational and institutional boundaries.

  • Assess the impact of new and proposed development

    Develop an assessment tool to help communities better understand the impact of new development on key areas.

    Geography: Chicago

    “My concerns, and my neighbors’ concerns, are about displacement, and about the cost of housing going up.”

    —Diane Limas, President, Communities United


    When needed investments come to communities that have experienced historical and systemic disinvestment, it can result in changes that far exceed expectations or plans. Too often, low-income households and businesses and people of color are likely to be displaced. It’s a pattern Chicago most recently witnessed with the four communities adjacent to the 606 Trail. Unveiled in 2015, the development bolstered the housing market in neighborhoods within a half-mile of the trail increasing housing prices by more than twice the citywide increase during the same period.[39]


    Develop an assessment tool to help communities better understand the impact of new development on key areas of communities concern, such as housing affordability and small businesses, and to better plan for and address all aspects of likely community change.

    How it would work

    With input from community-based and regional partners, MPC is developing a tool to analyze the likely impacts of investments and equip communities and government with strategies to manage neighborhood change more equitably. The tool will likely address impacts on housing affordability, small businesses and other variables that could be impacted by development. Although no tool can serve as a crystal ball, putting better data in the hands of community members, advocates and policymakers can help them make more informed decisions and to plan more proactively for the growth and development of their neighborhoods.

  • Property tax relief for affordable units across a range of neighborhoods

    Provide property tax relief of 10 years or more for owners of multifamily properties.

    Geography: Cook County


    There is an extreme shortage of affordable rental housing statewide, causing challenges for renters and landlords alike. In 2017, the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Illinois was $1,085. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities without paying more than 30 percent of income on housing, a household must earn $43,406 annually. In weaker markets, property owners struggle to maintain their buildings in good condition and affordable rental housing is lost when buildings fall into disrepair. In stronger markets, as rents continue to rise, any naturally occurring affordable units have dwindled in supply. Across all markets, owners grapple with rising property taxes, which are often disproportionately high in low-income areas and a disincentive for affordability in high-cost areas.


    The State should advance legislation providing property tax relief of ten years or more for owners of multifamily properties who undertake rehabilitation or new construction and who commit to make a percentage of their units available to households at or below 60 percent of Area Median Income.

    How it would work

    The proposal, HB 5865, crafted by Housing Action Illinois, The Preservation Compact and Enterprise Community Partners Chicago, provides that buildings with 35 percent or more affordability receive a 35 percent decrease in equalized assessed value. Buildings with 15 percent or more affordability would receive a 25 percent decrease in equalized assessed value. In Cook County, it would be mandatory for the assessor to implement this program. In other counties, implementation would be at the discretion of their respective assessor.


    This will incentivize owners in stronger markets to provide units at affordable levels and encourage owners in weaker markets with existing affordability, to provide substantial improvements to their units.

  • Increase housing options by increasing CHA voucher subsidies

    Expand Housing Choice Voucher exception rents to 200% of fair market rent in select community areas.

    Geography: Chicago

    Voucher expansion map


    Formerly known as Section 8 housing, the Housing Choice Voucher Program helps low-income residents secure apartments in the private market by paying a portion of their rent in neighborhoods of their choice. However, because of the extreme variation in Chicago’s rental market, increased subsidies are needed to allow voucher recipients to use their vouchers throughout the city. Many individuals and families with Housing Choice Vouchers find they cannot use them to relocate to higher-rent neighborhoods because the subsidy is too low. 2017 research found that “the maximum subsidy available to [voucher] participants is too low to rent any unit within a majority [of] properties across Chicago.”[40]

    The Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) has an Exception Payment Standard policy that allows for subsidies to be 50 percent higher than the Fair Market Rent (FMR) to expand housing options for families in community areas of higher mobility. CHA defines these community areas as those with less than 20 percent of individuals with income below the poverty level and below median violent crime; or community areas with moderate poverty and crime plus other economic indicators.

    This policy curbs the perpetuation of segregation that occurs when voucher-holders are housed only where the rents are lowest. The Exception Payment Standard is sufficient for most Community Areas designated as Mobility Areas, excepting eight central Community Areas that experience Median Minimum Rents at any unit size above the current 150 percent FMR.


    Expand Housing Choice Voucher Exception Rents to 200 percent of Fair Market Rent in select community areas that are currently inaccessible to voucher holders as a means to promote mobility and equity.

    How it would work

    CHA would apply to HUD for approval under its Moving to Work designation to allow for payment standards of up to 200 percent of standard fair market rent in select areas that are inaccessible via the current Exception Payment Standard, according to research by the Policy Research Collaborative at Roosevelt University:[41] North Center, Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Near North Side, West Town, Near West Side, the Loop and Near South Side.


    As a result of 1) allowing for payment standards of up to 200 percent of standard fair market rent, and 2) expanding mobility area boundaries from select census tracts to entire community areas, voucher holders would have access to an estimated 3,377 more housing units than they do today.[42] For example, increasing the payment standards from 150 percent to 200 percent of fair market rent would increase market access for two bedroom units from 29 percent to 94 percent of available properties in North Center and 0 percent to 47 percent in Near South Side. These additional units are scattered across roughly 23 community areas such as North Center, Bridgeport, the Near South Side and West Ridge. Given limitations of Census Bureau data groupings, we consider 3,377 to be a conservative estimate.

  • Reform unfair, inaccurate Cook County property tax assessments

    Implement the price-weighted regression model without further delay.

    Geography: Cook County

    “From North Lawndale and Little Village to Calumet City and Melrose Park, residents in working-class neighborhoods were more likely to receive property tax bills that assumed their homes were worth more than their true market value, the Tribune found.”

    —Jason Grotto, Chicago Tribune[43]


    For decades, Cook County’s property tax assessment system has unfairly burdened low-income, minority households via a system that is inaccurate and opaque. Resisting both reforms and industry standards, the office of the Cook County Assessor has systemically over-assessed homes in areas that are low-income and predominantly minority and under-assessed homes in wealthier, whiter areas. The result is an inequitable tax burden driven by income and race: owners of lower-valued homes pay approximately 30 percent more, while wealthier homeowners who are far more likely to appeal their assessments pay less. The same regressive pattern applies to commercial and industrial properties, with small businesses in low-income areas typically over-assessed while under-assessing downtown office buildings.[44]


    The Cook County Assessor’s Office already has a proposed system that’s proven to produce more accurate, transparent and less regressive assessments: the price-weighted regression model. We recommend implementing this system without further delay.

    How it would work

    The model divides properties into segments based on sale price—high, medium or low—and determines values separately. It has been tested and proven to result in more accurate, efficient, transparent assessments, reducing inequitable tax burdens on low-income homeowners and small businesses in low-income areas.


    Analysis by UChicago Harris Public Policy professor Chris Berry reveals that between 2011 and 2015, the Assessor’s Office shifted roughly $800 million in property taxes from the top 10 percent of properties in the City of Chicago onto the bottom 70 percent (see figure below[45]). Berry’s work suggests that during this period, $2.2 billion overall was shifted from undertaxed properties—the most expensive properties—onto over-taxed ones.

    Net tax shift 2011 to 2015

    Tests on the new model show that it would produce assessments that are 50 percent more accurate and 25 percent less regressive, saving poorer homeowners in the county tens of millions every year.

  • Expand Homeownership Opportunities

    Create a City New Homes for Chicago 2.0 program and enact the federal Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit.

    Geography: Chicago/Federal

    “We must have a plan to preserve affordable housing in areas that are gentrifying and give folks an opportunity to become homeowners. Then, they can start to accumulate wealth.”

    —Anonymous response to MPC Survey


    Homeownership long has been central to Americans’ ability to amass wealth and is a key strategy to reduce the racial wealth gap. Yet many families of color have long been excluded from the benefits of homeownership because of redlining, mortgage discrimination, predatory lending and residential segregation. The legacy of these discriminatory policies are seen today: While 74 percent of whites in the Chicago area owned their homes in 2015, only 39 percent of African Americans and 51 percent of Latinos were homeowners.[46] This represents the largest gap among the nation’s largest metro areas. If there were parity in homeownership, the Chicago region would experience a 31 percent reduction in the African American-white wealth gap and a 28 percent reduction in the Latino-White wealth gap.[47]

    1. Create a City New Homes for Chicago 2.0 program, providing subsidies to new homeowners and converting City-owned vacant lots into productive use in targeted neighborhoods.
    2. Enact the federal Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit to address appraisal gaps by attracting private capital to revitalize disinvested neighborhoods through homeownership.
    How it would work
    1. A Housing Policy Task Force, convened by Neighborhood Housing Services and co-chaired by The Resurrection Project and MPC, has developed recommendations for a New Homes 2.0 program. Key components of the program include strategically targeting neighborhoods where there are other public or private investments planned or underway, with lower homeownership rates in comparison to the City of Chicago and that have experienced increased investor sales activity and home values. Other essential components include engaging high capacity community partners to help prepare a pipeline of potential first-time homebuyers, engaging institutional partners to include a workforce training component and providing direct homebuyer subsidies— which is critical for helping moderate-income families attain homeownership.
    2. The Neighborhood Homes Tax Credit would provide tax-exempt private activity bonds and mortgage credit certificates to serve as critical capital, particularly in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods that are challenged by appraisal gaps.

    Homeownership allows families to accumulate wealth and therefore, helps to shield them from economic instability. This is particularly significant for communities of color, given that the overwhelming share of African American and Latino wealth is accumulated through homeownership. We propose that the City commit to at least 100 new homes in the initial rollout.

    Under the New Homes for Chicago program, 1,296 units of new housing were built and sold to low- to moderate-income families. Based on an analysis of a sampling of 300 homes built under the program in Roseland, Pilsen, North Lawndale, Auburn Gresham and Englewood, they generated $4.6M in property taxes for just the tax years of 2012–2016 (MPC/NHS analysis of property tax data). Given this, and assuming a City commitment to 100 new homes in the initial rollout, we estimate property tax revenue amounting to at least $1.5 million.

  • Ensure affordable units are leased to those most in need

    Maximize the impact of the ARO by ensuring affordable units are being leased to Chicagoans who need it most.

    Geography: Chicago


    In 2007, the City of Chicago implemented the Affordable Requirements Ordinance (ARO) requiring residential developments that receive city financial assistance or involve city-owned land provide a percentage of units at affordable prices. Intended to increase housing options throughout the city to families who need it most, ARO rental units are in short supply and high demand. The extent to which valuable on-site units are rented to the intended population—rather than, for instance, graduate students – is unclear. Further, developers’ tenant selection process often eliminates otherwise eligible tenants based solely on credit score.


    Maximize the impact of the ARO by ensuring affordable units are being leased to Chicagoans who need it most.

    How it would work

    Follow New York City’s example of establishing a delegate agency to manage fair housing-approved marketing procedures and establish a tenant selection process that ensures the lease-up process is transparent, prioritizes those with greatest need, does not eliminate tenants based solely on credit score and addresses racialized inequities in housing.

    Case study

    New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) developed a Marketing Handbook to provide better oversight of developers’ marketing and lease-up practices for affordable housing units to ensure that developer discretion was not resulting in discrimination. The handbook outlines procedures for outreach and resident selection. For example, developers may not reject applicants based solely on credit score, but instead must adhere to tenant selection criteria that takes into account broader factors such as rent payment history and requires developers to provide justification for rejecting a tenant.[48]


    More low-income families will have access to higher-cost areas, thereby decreasing segregation and substantially increasing their opportunity to meet the needs of their families.

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4. Creating equity in education

“People sometimes assume incorrectly that equity in education means all students are the same or will achieve the same outcomes. In fact, equity in education indicates all students have access to a high-quality education, regardless of where they live, who their parents are or what school they attend. In this sense, equity in schooling ensures that differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possessions.”

—Pasi Sahlberg, PhD, Visiting Professor of Practice in Education, Harvard University

Consider this schema of the role of equity in schools.

Needs hierarchy

The graphic above shows a proposed hierarchy to understand the goal of equity in schools. Moving from states of greater inequity at the bottom, to states of greater equity towards the top would require seeing:

  • Equity in academic and disciplinary outcomes
  • Equitable resources allocated to the school and within the school
  • Equitable representation in curriculum, faculty and family and community leadership

If we focus on equity first within and across our schools, desegregation becomes just one strategy of many to promote equity. Equitable schools and equitable districts don’t only just promote a more just and inclusive society today; they lay the foundation for a stronger future. In a more equitable school system, we find more students who are well-educated, self-aware and well-grounded in their own identity—and able to build strong relationships with people who are different than them. This is the foundation of building a more just, equitable and inclusive future for Chicago.

  • State-level education funding changes

    Ensure adequate funding (defined below) for all school districts.

    Geography: State

    “Equitable, adequate and sustained investment is essential to the success of our schools. As in any organization or business, predictable sufficient funding is necessary for effective planning and programming. And policymakers benefit from actively seeking the perspectives of students, educators and others when making decisions about resource allocation.”

    —Beatriz Ponce de Leon, Executive Director, Generation All


    Illinois has the most regressive funding formula in the nation. New legislation to rewrite this funding formula was passed in 2017, but several critical questions remain.

    This legislation prioritizes districts with greater populations of students with language-learning needs, high-poverty households and special education needs, with these districts receiving a larger allocation from any new pools of funds that are made available. As a result, in their annual budget request, Illinois State Board of Education enacted an equity-based formula to determine the appropriate funding necessary to give all students the supports and resources necessary to learn at high levels, finding that such a shift in determining educational needs demands more than doubling the state allocation to school districts.

    Increasing the state allocation would lessen the burden on local funding sources, which exacerbate inequity in Illinois. On average, Illinois school districts receive barely a quarter of their funding from state sources—while local schools in New Mexico, Hawaii and Vermont receive over 70 percent of their funding from state coffers.[49]

    While the legislation passed promotes equity in how dollars are distributed, it does not ensure that high-needs districts receive sufficient funding to meet their students’ needs. It also does not require large districts to allocate dollars equitably throughout the many schools that they serve, which is increasingly critical to consider in diverse districts that stand to gain dollars due to their high-need populations—but have not demonstrated that these new dollars will flow to the students who need them most.


    To address these issues, Illinois should ensure adequate funding (defined below) for all school districts and enforce equity in local spending practices.

    How it would work
    • Ensure adequate state funding—Legislators should ensure budgetary allocations are in line with Illinois State of Board of Education’s request to double state education funding in order to meet adequacy in funding targets.
    • Ensure equitable local funding—The Illinois State Board of Education should also work to track and publicly report equitable spending of state dollars within districts, enforcing that a statewide formula of equity translates to equitable local spending. Funding should follow students from higher poverty communities, English-language learners and those with special education needs.
    • Shift school funding from local to state allocations—Increase statewide revenue sourcing for education to address wide gaps in local funding capacity.

    All Illinois children attend schools that are equitably funded and have the resources needed to provide world-class educations. Using the equity-based funding formula alone would increase the state allocation from $6.5 billion to $13.9 billion, a net of $7.4 billion in additional resources for Illinois schoolchildren who need it most.[50]

  • Create strong schools across Chicago neighborhoods

    CPS should embrace an Equity in All Policies approach.

    Geography: Chicago

    “People worry about educational attainment and whether or not the schools they send their children to are going to provide a good education and foster opportunities.”

    —Katya Nuques, Executive Director, ENLACE Chicago


    Many of Chicago Public Schools’ policies perpetuate inequities. For instance, selective enrollment schools require prerequisite knowledge of the school, enrollment pathways and deadlines; they favor students from households that can afford enrichment activities, test prep and tutoring and low-income black and brown students are disproportionately underrepresented in these programs. Another example: Student-based budgeting that allocates dollars per student enrolled, schools with resource limitations are incentivized to “purchase” the lowest-cost teachers, who are typically new teachers with more limited experience. Teachers with years of experience or advanced degrees become too expensive for cash-strapped schools to afford, which are often schools with highest-need students.


    CPS should embrace an Equity in All Policies approach: in academic and disciplinary outcomes, in resource allocation to schools and within schools and representation in curriculum, faculty, and family and community leadership. With a focus on equity as the primary goal, desegregation becomes just one of many strategies to promote strong schools.

    How it would work

    Enacting this vision would require significant district-wide policy changes, including:

    • Documenting student outcomes and resource allocation—Start by measuring student growth, attainment and disciplinary outcomes in an annual equity report that is published with district-wide data. Focus on gaps between racial and economic groups and establish goals and strategies for increasing parity.
    • Making curriculum culturally inclusive—Establish ethnic studies and diversity courses that encourage students to think of history, practices and society from diverse aspects and recognize how different culture-specific knowledge and perspectives, including their own, can serve their community.
    • Attracting experienced teachers to schools in need—Adopt district-pay schedules that reflect higher salaries at schools that have a greater percentage of students coming from households in poverty, students with special learning needs, or students who are learning English as a second language. Further, to promote racial diversity in workforce allocation across the city, establish goals to ensure that all students have a direct example of diverse leadership in their lives. Work with Chicago Teachers Union and certification programs to create strong pipelines into the teaching force for underrepresented groups.
    • Providing more opportunities for selection-based schools—If the district continues to use selection-based mechanisms for specialized programming like magnet schools, all such programs should be offered on an opt-out basis. This requires that all students are automatically screened for and offered admission for qualifying Chicago Public Schools rather than being dependent on parents to seek out these options.
    • Building family and community leadership—Develop local school councils for all publicly funded schools, including charters, alternative high schools and turnarounds. Report annually on the racial composition of LSC representatives compared to the school’s student body and set goals to more closely match as needed.
    • Case study

      Documenting student outcomes and resource allocation—In December 2017, the District of Columbia released its fourth annual series of citywide School Equity Reports, an outgrowth of a partnership between DCPS, the Office of the State Superintendent of Education, the DC Public Charter School Board and the Office of Deputy Mayor for Education. In addition to individual school reports, a citywide report is also available, and documents trends pertaining to attendance, academic growth and disciplinary outcomes. These Equity Reports contain data on topics such as total expulsions and PARCC performance by race/ethnic group, and can serve as a model for an annual CPS educational equity assessment.[51]


      An example of an equity-focused impact from culturally inclusive curriculum: Empirical studies reveal that taking ethnic studies and diversity courses have a variety of positive outcomes for both college and K–12 students. First, for both disadvantaged and advantaged student groups, taking the courses is associated with psychological tendencies to better understand and appreciate social difference, and reduce intergroup bias or prejudice.[52] Second, the courses help improve students’ academic performance, especially for those students who are typically disadvantaged in mainstream educational settings.[53] For example, evaluations of Mexican American Studies courses show that participation in these classes is positively correlated with graduating and is an effective method for increasing engagement and attendance rates of disadvantaged students.[54] Recent research on San Francisco high schools also reveals that enrollment in an ethnic studies course improved attendance by 21 percent and credits earned by 23 percent.[55]

      Long-term impacts include that more students are well-educated, self-aware and well-grounded in their own identity. These practices equip the next generation to grow into adults that have the capacity to build deep, meaningful relationships across lines of difference.

  • Identify opportunities for racial and economic integration by merging geographically proximate schools

    Proactively identify and seize opportunities for racial and economic integration.

    Geography: City of Chicago


    Chicago Public Schools are 90 percent students of color and 78 percent low-income. Given residential segregation and the demographics of the student body, most schools are located far from proximate opportunities for racial or economic integration. However, in the past six years, Chicago has spent $650 million on new school construction and over one-third of these projects were aimed at alleviating crowding at a school that shared a border with an underutilized building.[56] Massive shifts in the city’s public housing landscape in the 2000s were followed by declining enrollment in the 2010s in many of the schools that previously served primarily public housing residents. This is evident on the Near North and Near West Sides and in the South Loop and Midway areas. In several recent cases, CPS has opted for expensive expansions of overenrolled schools—typically whiter and higher income—rather than merging them with nearby under-enrolled schools that are typically blacker, browner and lower-income.


    Proactively identify and seize opportunities for racial and economic integration by merging geographically proximate schools, incorporating early and ongoing community participation in program planning and implementation to ensure an equitable and mutually beneficial merger.

    How it would work

    Each year, CPS would analyze demographic and enrollment trends to identify overenrolled and under-enrolled schools in close proximity. Rather than making decisions about the schools in isolation, CPS would analyze potential mergers between schools across race and class. As it did with the Near North Side Jenner-Ogden merger, CPS, together with Chicago’s philanthropic and public sector community, would support the process with an independent expert to guide the following activities:

    • An analysis of demographic trends and projections for utilization of both schools, assessing the costs and benefits of a merged school to both, and if determined to be a viable option, recommending the ideal merger configuration.
    • From early on and ongoing, creating a steering committee comprised of parents and community members of both schools—via a joint LSC structure augmented with community leaders from relevant groups—to review the independent analysis, conduct a Racial Equity Assessment, make its own recommendations to CPS and to be a conduit for ongoing community input into the transition plan.

      Recommendations should include culturally inclusive curriculum and offerings, facilities’ needs and other school provided supports (e.g., transportation). Special attention should be given to ensure implicit bias awareness training for teachers and parents and planning for diverse interests and achievement levels without stratified programming tracks that reinforce racial hierarchy.


    Diverse classrooms, in which students learn cooperatively alongside those whose perspectives and backgrounds are different from their own, are beneficial to all students—including middle-class white students—because these environments promote creativity, motivation, deeper learning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills.[57] Based on CPS demographic data for the 2017–2018 school year, implementing this recommendation immediately could alleviate overcrowding or underutilization at as many as ten CPS elementary schools serving between 6,000 and 7,000 students. Additionally, implementing this recommendation could transform four racially segregated elementary schools (serving about 2,000 students) into four racially integrated merged schools.

    Case study: Jenner-Ogden merger

    In November 2015, two Chicago elementary schools within one mile of each other—Ogden International and Jenner School for the Arts—came together to discuss a potential merger to address mutual challenges with student enrollment. Ogden was facing overcrowding, while Jenner had just 244 students enrolled in a school built for 1000.[58] The merger would help these two schools solve their space problems, while also creating more diverse student bodies (Jenner is 96 percent African-American, 88 percent low-income; Ogden is 45.5 percent white, 21 percent low-income).[59]

    In the spring of 2016, parents and community members from both schools came together to form the Jenner-Ogden Community Steering Committee, which commissioned an independent report assessing the feasibility and potential mutual benefits of the school merger. The report made clear that a merger could feasibly meet the needs of both schools and in the fall of 2016, the Steering Committee formally requested that CPS consider merging the school communities. After multiple community forums, CPS recommended the merger to the Board of Education, promising $1.8 million in funding for a smooth transition.[60] The merger was approved by the Board of Education in February 2018.[61]

    Importantly, the Jenner-Ogden Community Steering Committee recognizes that the merger alone does not guarantee an inclusive experience for students and families. Parents and teachers from both schools are currently participating in a year-long program with the National SEED Project to drive personal, organizational and societal change toward greater equity and diversity. SEED equips participants to connect their lives to one another and to society at large by acknowledging systems of oppression, power and privilege.

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Cardinal Blase Cupich

Cardinal Blase Cupich

“The causes of the violence we are seeing in our city are complex and deep seated, but I have a strong belief, based on the good will and the efforts of our many dedicated civic and religious leaders, that these causes can be addressed and the suffering can end if we all work together.”

—Cardinal Blase Cupich

2017 marked the deaths of more than 600 Chicago residents by gun violence. It’s a tragedy with a devastating ripple effect: consequences of gun violence impact entire communities, families, and children.

Last Spring, Cardinal Blase Cupich announced the Archdiocese’s sweeping anti-violence campaign that seeks out and invests in new approaches and partnerships to break the violence-causing cycle of despair, racism and poverty in the city. 

“The causes of the violence we are seeing in our city are complex and deep seated,” says Cardinal Cupich, “but I have a strong belief, based on the good will and the efforts of our many dedicated civic and religious leaders, that these causes can be addressed and the suffering can end if we all work together.”

Often citing MPC’s report on The Cost of Segregation, Cardinal Cupich links violence and homicides to Chicago’s legacy of segregation and racism, and the Archdiocese is turning to solutions that address this issue at its root.

“We all own this problem, not just people who live in neighborhoods most affected by violence,” says Cardinal Cupich. “So many of our residents live in segregated enclaves and it’s up to us to go out and bring them into the center. We can do that through education and job opportunities, but also through simple dialogue with people who are different from ourselves.”

Among the activities the Archdiocese is supporting includes new programs that directly address domestic and gang violence, programs that work with men at-risk for gangs and ex-offenders, and job and internship programs.

“Chicago is a great city and has so many assets of wealth and talent. We need to make sure everyone feels included and that’s not currently the case,” says Cardinal Cupich. “Racism and segregation and attitudes of bigotry are passed down from one generation to the next. It’s up to us to break that cycle.”

5. Reforming the criminal justice system

Research shows that racial and economic segregation is damaging to public safety, regional growth and overall economic prosperity. In recent years, our region has experienced a number of wrenching events that amplify the need to address the structural barriers to reform police and criminal systems.

Building cultural awareness among police and youth


Melvin Williams of Storycatchers Theatre and Officer Vanessa Westley participate in a role-playing activity at the DuSable Museum of African American History.

In cities across the nation, the deaths of unarmed African Americans after encounters with the police have led to public outcry. Longstanding tension and outright conflict among law enforcement and predominately African-American communities is a complex and emotional issue.

In a city of well-documented racial and ethnic segregation, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) has been facing this issue for generations. In recent years, the department has worked to ease tensions regarding race and policing by creating more opportunities for conversations between officers and black residents, especially young people.

CPD officials implemented a variety of new programs, but one in particular has helped build cultural awareness: Since June 2017, every police recruit from the Academy has attended a cultural awareness experiential training at the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood. Officer Vanessa Westley, a 28-year CPD veteran, coordinates the mandatory program.

“Most of our young people who are coming on the job come from different places outside of the city,” Westley says. “This gives them a window into the neighborhoods that they’re going to be serving in, especially African-American neighborhoods.”

Recruits spend the day learning more about the role of law enforcement in the history of African Americans in Chicago. The customized tours of the museum’s exhibits and facilitated conversation expose the harm of discrimination and implicit bias. These difficult topics are handled most interactively during role-playing simulations led by Storycatchers Theatre, a youth development arts organization.

Melvin Williams, an Englewood native, was introduced to Storycatchers by his juvenile parole officer. During the training, he and other youth who’ve been involved in the criminal justice system share real-life stories of incarcerated youth and work with recruits to explore the impact of those experiences on their lives. For many of the youth, it’s one of the few positive interactions they’ve had with law enforcement. Williams says that participating in the training sessions has taught him that “you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

At the end of each role-playing session, the recruits and other young people discuss how everyone can take responsibility for creating positive interactions. The sessions with Storycatchers are Westley’s favorite part of the training because they give the recruits opportunities to live someone else’s story. For her, it’s proven that helping them remember their humanity and that of others is crucial to preparing officers to make informed choices in the field. We need more of that in Chicago, she says.

“We have to change. It’s important that we are very in tune to our communities and our city,” Westley says. “There is difference, but we’re striving for equity.”

From rising murder rates to a Department of Justice investigation into local law enforcement to the Grassroots Alliance for Police Accountability calling for civilian oversight, we are experiencing firsthand the continued legacy of inequitable systems that impact crime and violence, police legitimacy and due process of law. This inequity has a domino effect, in which predominantly communities of color bear the brunt of long-term disinvestment, excessive policing and the loss of human capital by violence or incarceration. We all share the costs when our justice system is colorblind to an infrastructure built on race and class. There is no one solution to turn this tide of inequities, but we believe interventions that target root causes of violence, poverty and excessive incarceration is a step in the right direction. These steps are reflected throughout this report in recommendations that seek to increase access to economic opportunity, invest in neglected neighborhoods and build more equitable systems of government.

  • Reform police training to reduce excessive force and racial profiling

    The Police Accountability Task Force recommendations need to be implemented immediately.

    Geography: Chicago

    “We cannot fight the violence without building up the [police] department and, simultaneously, strengthening the community through investments, trust and engagement.”

    —Lori Lightfoot, President, Chicago Police Board


    From 2009 to 2013, 75.3 percent of police shooting victims in Chicago were African American.[62] After the 2015 video release of an officer shooting Laquan McDonald sixteen times, the U.S. Department of Justice’s ensuing investigation of the Chicago Police Department revealed systemic excessive use of force that disproportionately impacts people of color and a lack of accountability for misconduct that has persisted in the organization’s structure for decades.[63]

    It is imperative to change the way Chicago protects and serves its communities. In 2016, the Police Accountability Task Force released a set of recommendations that addressed police accountability and systemic problems calling for annual training standards, measures to prevent misconduct and mechanisms for civilian led oversight.

    After new leadership at the Department of Justice failed to order a consent decree that would mandate reform, the Attorney General filed a federal lawsuit in August 2017, seeking a court order to do so and to appoint an independent monitor to oversee organizational change.

    Recommendation 1

    The Police Accountability Task Force recommendations need to be implemented immediately. One of their recommendations included overhauling the way in which police are trained and focuses on enhancing procedural justice. Our recommendation is to expand that training by engaging racial equity experts who can build content and training that addresses implicit/explicit bias and institutional racism, making them mandatory for all CPD employees and to conduct these trainings together with community residents. Key to this effort is the addition of a Chief of Diversity and Inclusion, called for by advocacy groups, to lead a broad range of policy and procedural reform including, training, beat orientation, officer deployment and recruitment and retention of people of color.

    How it would work

    CPD would contract with industry experts to develop curriculum and build the internal capacity of trainers in racial equity principles. This team would create modules as part of the existing Procedural Justice curriculum that equips participants to differentiate between institutional and individual racism and implicit and explicit bias. These new modules would be part of cadet training as well as ongoing Procedural Justice training that all officers and staff receive. An innovative feature of this work would be to conduct the training in community spaces alongside community residents, thus building relationships, empathy and respect across officers and residents. Supplemental training such as the experiential cultural immersion day at DuSable Museum for cadets should be fully funded to ensure quality and consistency and include the same standardized module on implicit bias and equity that is a part of procedural justice training.

    Case study

    Oakland PD’s Principled Police Training was the first Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified training on implicit bias and procedural justice. In April 2016, the state of California passed legislation requiring the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to create and offer procedural justice and implicit bias training to law enforcement professionals. The training is conducted by a diverse team that includes police officials, academics, community leaders and the states attorney’s office. Initial feedback from participants shows high score for quality of training and that it is a useful tool to improve community relationships.[64]

    Recommendation 2

    Every officer is trained as a community police officer and community policing (i.e. CAPs) is embraced department-wide. All police officers are trained to identify value and benefits of community (asset-based community engagement).

    How it would work

    Field training for new cadets would include a community immersion program that starts with a certification in asset-based community training. Police training officers with experience in asset-based community engagement will provide instruction as part of field training to teach new officers how to apply situational problem solving, emotional intelligence and other pillars of the training in responding to calls. Cadets will spend at least 20 percent of their time on community engagement in targeted districts with high crime but also where ground has been laid though previous efforts to build trust with community stakeholders. A streamlined training with a field service component should be developed for in-service officers and as a core requirement of of professional development needed to fulfill the new annual training mandate.


    Chicago could see as much as a 35 percent reduction in its homicide rate by fully adopting a department-wide community policing strategy. The cities of Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia experienced significant reductions in homicide rates after adopting a community policing philosophy under the direction of Charles Ramsey, a former deputy superintendent in Chicago. The homicide rate in Washington, D.C. fell nearly 50 percent from 1997, the year before Ramsey’s arrival, to 2006, the last full year of Ramsey’s tenure in the nation’s capital. During that same stretch, Chicago experienced a 40 percent drop in its homicide rate. However, Philadelphia witnessed a 35 percent decline in its homicide rate from 2007, the year before Ramsey arrived, to 2015, the last full year of Ramsey’s tenure in that city. In contrast, Chicago’s homicide rate actually increased by 12 percent during that span.

  • Break the link between people with low incomes and incarceration

    Eliminate wealth-based pretrial detention by prohibiting the use of secured money bail.

    Geography: Cook County and state


    Throughout the U.S., hundreds of thousands of people languish in local jails simply because they lack the financial means to pay bail. The result is undermined stability through loss of jobs and housing and severed families and community ties.[65] In addition, court fines, fees and costs that people simply cannot afford to pay regularly lead to lost opportunities, whether through jobs, housing, suspension of driver’s licenses and even re-incarceration.[66] Racial disparities in the criminal justice system have been documented in practically every aspect, from traffic and street stops to arrests to sentencing. One example is Cook County’s money bail system, which requires already impoverished communities to raise thousands of dollars to free loved ones from Cook County Jail. A 2016 study by Community Renewal Society estimated the average cash bond in Cook County Central Bond Court was over $70,000, well above the median household income of $56,000.[67] Historically, well over 50 percent of people in Cook County Jail were there only because they could not pay a money bond. Inability to pay bond is often the start of a perpetual cycle of poverty and detention. Recent reports have noted improvements in bond court but also ongoing needs: individuals in the Cook County criminal justice system are being released on non-monetary bonds at significantly higher rates than they have in the past, but several thousand people remain in Cook County Jail only because they cannot pay their bonds.[68] In addition, much work remains to ensure that bond determinations are consistent across judges and that new procedures are effectively implemented, monitored and sustained long term.[69]

    In addition, people in the criminal and traffic courts are regularly assessed court fines, fees, and costs without regard to their ability to pay.[70] These fees can accumulate to hundreds and even thousands of dollars and result in late fees and other steep penalties.[71] One recent investigation by ProPublica found that debt from traffic tickets alone disproportionately burden African American Chicago residents and drives thousands of people into bankruptcy each year.[72] Court debt impedes effective re-entry by causing bad credit scores, ineligibility for records relief such as expungement or sealing and barriers to securing employment such as suspended driver’s licenses.[73]

    • Eliminate wealth-based pretrial detention by prohibiting the use of secured money bail;
    • Create a statutory waiver for the imposition of criminal court fees and costs on the poor;
    • End the suspension of driver’s licenses for simple non-payment of tickets, fines, or other debt; and
    • Require implicit bias training for judges, prosecutors, public defenders, pretrial services officers and all criminal court system staff.
    How it would work

    Illinois state law already requires judges to consider the ability of accused people to pay a monetary bond.[74] In 2017, Cook County Chief Judge Timothy Evans created a process for judges to follow this law with the goal of eliminating pretrial detention based only on poverty.[75] State law or Illinois Supreme Court Rules should be changed to eliminate the use of monetary bail entirely or at least ensure no one is jailed simply because of how much money they have. State legislators and local policymakers should act quickly to reduce excessive or unnecessary court fees, fines and costs, create waivers for people too poor to pay and stop the suspension of driver’s licenses based only on non-payment.

    Case studies

    In Washington D.C., 85 percent of defendants are released without bail, 90 percent of them show up for their court dates and 91 percent of them stay out of trouble while free. The district saves at least $398 million a year—more than $1 million a day—by releasing defendants into supervision programs that are far less expensive than keeping the defendants behind bars.[76]


    As of December 2017, we estimate that 3,300 people are incarcerated in Cook County Jail (CCJ) due to an inability to pay their bail.[77] These 3,300 people represent approximately 57 percent of the current jail population, and a yearly total of $198 million ($60,000 per detainee) in county taxpayer dollars due to unnecessary pretrial detention.[78]

Back to agenda index

Progress and the future


The Chicago region and the state of Illinois have made strides towards increased equity across housing, economic development and health in recent years. We note and applaud the following examples of positive policy change:

  • Illinois TRUST Act

    Protects immigrant families from being deported unless a named warrant has been issued for their arrest.

    In August 2017, Gov. Rauner signed the Illinois TRUST Act, which protects immigrant families from being deported unless a named warrant has been issued for their arrest. This bill to help protect law-abiding residents, regardless of status, was crafted and ultimately passed due to the leadership of the Campaign for a Welcoming Illinois – a coalition of organizers led by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and PASO-West Suburban Action Project. This landmark legislation is a critical step to keep families together and to help build trust among immigrant communities and law enforcement agencies.

  • Neighborhood Opportunity Fund

    Generates revenue from downtown developments to finance commercial and cultural projects in disinvested neighborhoods on the South, Southwest, and West Sides.

    In February 2016, the City of Chicago established the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund to generate revenue from downtown developments to finance commercial and cultural projects in disinvested neighborhoods on the South, Southwest and West Sides. As of early 2018, the initiative is anticipated to raise $50 million in 2018 alone. The goal of the Fund, to create vibrant commercial corridors and build community wealth in areas lacking investment, is one way to ensure an increase in equitable investments across the City of Chicago. By integrating a fee for private development investments in booming areas of the City, funds are converted into public investments for business owners and communities of color in need of economic stabilization and growth.

  • Cook County source of income protections

    Protects voucher holders against discrimination, so that landlords could not legally refuse to rent solely on the basis of the household’s voucher status.

    Prior to 2013, the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance protected residents against discrimination based on source of income, but exempted the protection of Housing Choice Voucher holders. In May 2013, Cook County passed an amendment to protect voucher holders against discrimination, so that landlords could not legally refuse to rent solely on the basis of the household’s voucher status. This new protection helps to increase housing options, which diminishes racial and economic segregation and furthers regional equity.

  • Evanston’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance

    At least 10 percent of new residential units built must be kept at an affordable rate.

    In 2015, the City Council of Evanston adopted an amended version of the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance (IHO). Under the ordinance, at least 10 percent of new residential units built must be kept at an affordable rate, or in lieu of affordable units, the developer must pay a fee between $75,000 and $100,000 per unit. An example of how the ordinance is working: In June 2017, the City Council approved a nine-story rental apartment development that will contribute $2.4 million to the city’s Affordable Housing Fund. Moving forward, the council is discussing another possible revision to allow the creation of affordable units off-site and the possibility of fees-in-lieu being used toward other affordable housing strategies such as rental assistance.

  • Naperville’s source of income protection

    Prohibits discrimination on the basis of income.

    The 1976 Naperville Fair Housing Ordinance prohibited discrimination on the basis of income, however it never defined the phrase “legal source of income.” Since October 2016, however, income is now defined to include government-issued housing vouchers, child support, medical assistance from the local, state or federal government and any other funds an individual uses as financial support. This change means landlords are required to permit voucher holding applicants the same consideration as non-voucher applicants.

  • Chicago CityKey

    Reduces barriers to those who have difficulty accessing government-issued identification.

    In the spring 2018, the City of Chicago launched Chicago CityKey, a “three-in-one” card: a valid, government-issued ID, a Chicago Public Library card, and a Ventra card. The CityKey has been several years in the making, including a task force that was launched in 2015 by the Mayor’s Office of New Americans. The task force brought together City officials and community groups to examine barriers that many Chicagoans faced when trying to obtain government-issued ID such as survivors of domestic violence, the formerly incarcerated, young people, seniors, veterans, transgender, immigrants, and the homeless population, among others.

    While originally created to reduce barriers to those who have difficulty accessing government-issued identification, the program’s goals have since grown to include discounts and other benefits. The Office of the City Clerk will continue to add benefits to the CityKey, including a pharmaceutical benefit that will offer discounts for cardholders on both name brand and generic prescription drugs regardless of their insurance status.

  • Incentive payments for landlords in CHA opportunity areas

    Provides new landlords in opportunity areas a lump sum incentive payment equal to one month of rent for every new unit leased to a voucher holder.

    In June 2017, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) launched a new landlord incentive program aimed at opportunity areas (i.e. areas in a census tract with a poverty level below 20 percent and a low concentration of subsidized housing). The program provides new landlords in opportunity areas a lump sum incentive payment equal to one month of rent for every new unit leased to a voucher holder in these designated areas. The initiative aims to provide an incentive for property owners to rent units to CHA voucher holders, in order to expand housing options in opportunity areas and encourage broader participation of landlords across Chicago.

  • CHA approved for 250 percent exception payments for reasonable accommodation and expansion of “opportunity areas”

    Expands access to neighborhoods that were previously unavailable to voucher holders.

    A 2017 report co-authored by the Chicago Policy Research Team at University of Chicago and the Chicago Area Fair Housing Alliance highlights the challenges that voucher holders face and that serve to limit their housing choices. Voucher holders with disabilities have extremely limited choices for affordable rental housing in the City, such that expanding the voucher subsidy amount would significantly widen their options. Using the data findings from this report, the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) recently applied for and received HUD approval to increase current rent subsidies from 150 percent FMR to 250 percent in cases where it’s needed as a Reasonable Accommodation for households who require specific accessibility amenities.

    Additionally, the CHA recently announced that as of March 2018, they would change from determining eligibility for Exception Payment Standards at the census tract level, to community areas. This change effectively expands access to neighborhoods that were previously unavailable to voucher holders– specifically areas with lower poverty and crime levels and with greater job opportunities.

  • City of Chicago Health in All Policies resolution

    Incorporating health considerations into decision-making across sectors and policy areas.

    Health in All Policies (HiAP) is a well-known approach to improving health outcomes by incorporating health considerations into decision-making across sectors and policy areas. In order to integrate health into all City of Chicago policies and planning, in May 2016 the Chicago City Council passed a resolution introduced by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to establish that Chicago will apply a HiAP approach to policy-making. In August 2017, the City of Chicago Health in All Policies Task Force released a final report of recommendations that proposed potential collaborations in a range of policy areas and built upon strategies laid out in Healthy Chicago 2.0. Considering health outcomes in all policies is important because research shows that racial segregation itself negatively impacts health.

Under study

Over the course of this project, we discussed with our advisors and working groups multiple topics that did not result in a recommendation in this report. In this section, we note many of them that warrant further study and serious consideration.

  • Progressive income tax

    Amending the Illinois Constitution to allow a Fair Tax structure.

    A flat tax is a method of taxing income at a constant rate, meaning all income levels get taxed the same percentage. This system puts a heavier burden on low-income individuals and families, as they spend a larger portion of their income on necessities and are left with minimal disposable income. Illinois is one in only four states that still mandate a flat tax. Additionally, Illinois’ budget has the biggest deficit in ten years, at $9.6 billion. Amending the Illinois Constitution to allow a Fair Tax structure (with lower rates for lower incomes and higher rates for higher incomes) would help mend the deficit by raising an additional $1–3 billion, as well as result in a tax cut for nearly 90 percent of Illinois residents.

    Furthermore, almost all income growth over the past decade has been among the top 10 percent of earners and a fair tax scheme would capture this growth. Spearheading the effort in Illinois to pass a Fair Tax amendment is the Responsible Budget Coalition, a group of over 300 organizations that range from health care, human services, higher education, faith communities, labor unions and civic organizations. There are also champions for this amendment in the Illinois Senate and House, including Senators Don Harmon and Toi Hutchinson and Representatives Christian Mitchell and Lou Lang. A key next step to advance this, is would require state legislators to vote to put a referendum on the Fair Tax on the upcoming November ballot, and allow voters the opportunity to sound off on amending the state constitution to allow for the Fair Tax.

  • Property tax sharing

    Narrowing the gap between communities with the highest and lowest tax base per person.

    Each of the hundreds of local governments in northeastern Illinois differs in its tax base, needs and ability to generate revenue. These differences create inequalities in property tax burden, often with a mismatch between a community’s relative ability to pay and their tax burden. For example, Chicago residents who live along north Lakeshore Drive have higher income levels but a lower tax burden, while more economically disconnected areas, such as south Cook County and Waukegan, have relatively low incomes and a high tax burden.[79] Additionally, these differences form a barrier to reinvestment in particular areas of Cook County, keeping the tax base from growing at the same rate as public service needs.

    An example of addressing this issue is the Twin Cities region, which has an innovative tax-base sharing initiative called the Fiscal Disparities Program. The Program covers 7 counties across the Twin Cities region and aims at narrowing the gap between communities with the highest and lowest tax base per person. Jurisdictions within the program contribute 40 percent of growth in commercial, industrial and public utility property tax base into a shared pool. Distribution from the shared pool depends on the market value of all property per person compared to average per person property value. This formula means communities with below-average property tax value per person receive a larger share of the shared pool, and communities with above-average property tax value per person receive a smaller share of the pool. In 2016, the Program shared $561 million in tax revenue with the 7 counties contributing to the pool. Out of the 7 participating counties, 99 communities are net recipients and gain tax base compared to what they contribute, and 80 communities are net contributors. This initiative embraces the interdependence of communities, and by reducing competition for tax base encourages more orderly development, incentivizing all 7 counties to work together and help communities in all stages of development.

  • Investing in housing and post-release services for the formerly incarcerated

    Explore expanding supportive housing and services for the formerly incarcerated.

    Tens of thousands of individuals return to their communities from Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) facilities and local jails each year. Many return to the same few zip codes, reinforcing the region’s racial and economic segregation and straining service provision in already high-need communities. Many face significant legal barriers and societal stigma in accessing housing, employment and needed support services. Only a fraction of those leaving IDOC are successful in their transition and, without proper support, nearly 50 percent of those released return to prison within three years. A 2015 report by the Illinois Sentencing Policy Advisory Council estimated the total cost of a single “recidivism event” at just over $118,000 including $41,000 of taxpayer cost, $57,000 of victimization costs and $20,000 of indirect cost.[80] This cost is significantly higher than the estimated cost of community-based supportive housing. Over the course of 2018, MPC will staff a newly formed working group chaired by the Illinois Department of Corrections and the Illinois Housing Development Authority to explore expanding supportive housing and services for the formerly incarcerated.

  • Immigration Safe Zones Act (SB 35)

    Ensure that immigrants in Illinois can live with dignity and without fear.

    Immigrants in Illinois often live in fear due to enforcement tactics by immigration agencies, particularly in light of arrests at or near “sensitive locations” such as courthouses, schools and medical facilities. As a result, families are often afraid to take their children to school and seek medical attention. A coalition of organizations led by the West Suburban Action Project (PASO) and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is crafting legislation to ensure that immigrants in Illinois can live with dignity and without fear. This legislation, the Immigration Safe Zones Act (SB 35), would require the Attorney General to publish model rules to support sensitive locations, including publicly-funded schools, publicly-funded hospitals, public libraries and courthouses when faced with immigration enforcement. These facilities would also be required to limit their collection of immigration status information. These policies would help reduce fear among immigrants in our State, ensure meaningful access to community spaces and help to ensure that our local institutions can benefit from the contributions that immigrants make to our state and region’s diversity, culture and economic success.

  • Bolstering the Chicago small-to-medium business ecosystem, with a specific focus on business owners of color and women

    Improving the understanding of and investment in SMBs within specifc industries and neighborhoods.

    Chicago’s small and medium-sized businesses (“SMBs”) are critical levers for job creation and neighborhood revitalization. To date, however, there has been no comprehensive data analysis and synthesis of the SMB landscape across Chicago, nor a firm understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities experienced by businesses owned by women and people of color.

    The Chicago Community Trust, JPMorgan Chase and Polk Brothers have funded the Community Reinvestment Fund a (CDFI small business lender) and Next Street (a consultant with experience assessing SMB markets nationwide) to conduct an in-depth market assessment of the Chicago SMB ecosystem. The assessment will fill a void in available market data by improving the understanding of SMBs within specific industries and neighborhoods and cataloguing the landscape of capital providers (both debt and equity) and business service organizations (BSOs) that cater to this specific segment of the economy. CRF and Next Street will identify the advantages and gaps in Chicago’s SMB ecosystem, and share initial recommendations. The results of this 2018 assessment will inform a strategic plan to improve SMB outcomes over the next several years; one area of focus may be the realignment of capital and human capacity resources for SMBs owned by people of color and/or those SMB that hire and promote career opportunities for people of color.

  • Reduced transit fares for low-income riders

    Lowering transportation costs allows these households to dedicate more of their limited resources to housing, education, and health.

    The average American household spends about 18 percent of their income on transportation, but low-income households can spend nearly twice that much.[81] Low-income households are also less likely to own a car, making them more reliant on transit to get to work and school. Other regions, such as Portland and the Twin Cities, have piloted reduced fare programs for riders at or below the federal poverty level. Lowering transportation costs allows these households to dedicate more of their limited resources to housing, education and health. Within the context of a sustainable revenue package, means-testing to offer discounted rates for low-income riders should be explored.

  • CPD Early Intervention System (EIS) for officers

    A supervisory tool used in police departments to monitor performance via administrative data.

    The suicide rate at the CPD is 25 percent higher than the national average for law enforcement agencies and almost twice as high as the rate for the American Public. The Chicago Police Department is partnering with the Crime Lab to develop an early intervention system. An Early Intervention System (EIS) is a supervisory tool used in police departments to monitor performance via administrative data. EIS identifies officers in need of assistance early on allowing the department to intervene with appropriate support to provide officers with proper wellness and mental health services and potentially reduce instances of misconduct and self-harm. This could be one of several tools for increased oversight of the police by collecting data points and collating them to look for warning signs of both violations and depressive behavior. This system will be is essential in determining which officers need supportive services or retraining from the Department.

  • Localizing the Work Opportunity Tax Credit

    Implement a local tax credit match to the federal WOTC.

    Illinois employers qualified for more than $185.3 million in federal Work Opportunity Tax Credits (WOTC) in 2013. These credits helped more than 82,000 people go to work across the state[82] by providing tax credits to employers who hire employees from qualifying target groups with significant barriers to employment. These populations include veterans, youth and adults living in target areas (such as Empowerment Zones), people with disabilities, the formerly incarcerated and recipients of governmental assistance (such as food stamps, TANF and Supplemental Security Income).[83]

    MPC is exploring how, similar to an EITC, the City of Chicago or Cook County could implement a local tax credit match to the federal WOTC. This strategy requires passage of a new law by the City of Chicago and Cook County. Since the federal WOTC program is currently administered through the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES), the City and County would reimburse qualifying employers through the existing IDES administrative process. IL Senator Duckworth and IL Senator Durbin recently proposed federal legislation that would leverage the WOTC to enhance youth job programs. That legislation was supported by Heartland Alliance, the Chicago Urban League, the Chicago Area Project and the Center for Social Innovation.

  • Improving paratransit

    Collect quantitative and qualitative data to fully understand paratransit’s strengths and shortfalls.

    Federally required paratransit service for individuals with disabilities is a lifeline for those who depend on it, enabling users to access recreation, employment and medical services. However, paratransit service in the Chicago region involves burdensome advance reservations, is often unreliable and is costly for Pace to provide. In 2017, Access Living found that paratransit vehicles failed to arrive on time in 38 percent of cases,[84] compared to a 90 percent on-time rate for CTA. And while paratransit users make up only 12 percent of total Pace riders, the service encompasses 43 percent of the agency’s operating expenses.[85] A large number of paratransit riders are low income, who would benefit from improved service, which could improve the ability to access employment and improve quality of life. In 2018, MPC will partner with Pace and Access Living to collect quantitative and qualitative data to fully understand the service’s strengths and shortfalls and identify new technologies and process improvements that will make the service easier to use, more reliable and more cost effective.

  • Rent control

    The topic of rent control is emerging in Chicago communities and political circles as a means to tackle rising costs of living and potential displacement.

    Over half the population of the city of Chicago rents, and in 2017 renters making the median income were spending over half their income just to cover rent.[86] Prohibited in Illinois since 1997, the topic of rent control is emerging in Chicago communities and political circles as a means to tackle rising costs of living and potential displacement. Advocating for lifting the rent control ban in Illinois is Lift the Ban coalition, a set of community groups who, for two years, have been leading the campaign to repeal Illinois’ 1997 Rent Control Preemption Act which prohibits municipalities from enacting any form of regulation on residential and commercial rent prices. In the March 2018 primary elections, voters in 76 precincts and 9 wards across Chicago weighed in on a ballot initiative asking whether the rent control ban should be lifted as a way to “stop gentrification and rapidly increasing rents.” A majority of voters—75 percent—voted yes.[87]

  • Tenant right of first refusal

    Allow tenants of buildings being sold in gentrifying areas the right to purchase their unit or building with assistance from local nonprofits and acquisition funds.

    Accelerated neighborhood change can often lead to higher housing costs and increased risk of displacement to lower-income residents. In contrast to homeowners, tenants are often at highest risk to be displaced by rising rents, de-conversions from 2- and 3-flats to single family homes and condo conversions. A Right of First Refusal would allow tenants of buildings being sold in gentrifying areas the right to purchase their unit or building with assistance from local nonprofits and acquisition funds, therefore preventing displacement. Any needed technical assistance could be provided by a third party with expertise in supporting tenant groups, and a potential funding source is a graduated Real Estate Transfer Tax. Washington, DC has a Right of First Refusal ordinance, along with providing low-interest loans and technical assistance to income-qualified tenants and tenant groups that can be used for a number of purposes including down payment assistance, acquisition, rehab and legal fees. Leading the charge to determine local feasibility is ONE Northside, an organization uniting community residents and people from over 100 institutions to build collective power, develop grassroots leaders and effect change.

  • Enhance community health through collaborative investments

    Individual healthcare institutions serving as anchor institutions and investing in assets in their surrounding communities

    Low income neighborhoods and communities of color face an inequitable distribution of resources and often lack physical and economic infrastructure that promotes health, such as high-quality affordable housing, safe space for outdoor recreation, healthy retail options and employment opportunities. To address these inequities, there is an increasing trend of individual healthcare institutions serving as anchor institutions and investing in assets in their surrounding communities, such as building affordable housing, improving streets and sidewalks for walkability and committing to local hiring and procurement. Beyond individual institutions taking on this role, there is an emerging movement where multiple healthcare organizations and other entities (e.g. government, philanthropy and banks) are joining forces to collectively invest in projects that further the physical and economic infrastructure in a specific geographic area.[88]

    In Chicago, West Side United, a collaborative of health-oriented institutions on Chicago’s West Side, has recently announced its goal to organize an impact fund that will invest $2.5 million in physical infrastructure on Chicago’s West Side in 2018–2019, as well as investing in local hiring and business accelerator grants.[89] The goal is to work together to make progress on measures, such as the life expectancy gap, that cannot be solved by a single institution alone. As West Side United solidifies its structure and moves toward implementation, its model, progress and outcomes should be tracked and evaluated for potential expansion and replication in areas with fewer large healthcare institutions (e.g. South Chicago, South Suburbs). This type of collaboration will take institutional level change at healthcare and other potential anchor institutions to move toward a collective impact model.

Future directions

We are eager to join our partners in communities, government and business to advance racial equity and inclusion in our region. As we’ve studied the issues and talked with people on the ground over the past two years, one of our clearest takeaways is that the field of equity and inclusion is young and does not have a well-documented playbook or paths forward in many cases.

In the next phase of our work, our intent is to create a multi-disciplinary cohort of 6–10 pilot projects—from training school principals in racial equity to equipping towns with the deliberate steps they can take to create or maintain diversity and inclusion—that are undertaken with community-based organizations and government with a strong process and outcomes evaluation component over two years.

At the same time that MPC and others are pushing for systems change, we will learn from a cohort that, through rigorous evaluation, is helping forge a path in this field that is not well-worn. By evaluating this work closely over time, we can create a clearer, better lit path forward for equity and inclusion in Chicago and across the country.

There are four additional areas that we intend to explore in future phases of work, all of which grew out of feedback we’ve received over years of this work or questions that surfaced and we feel strongly need more attention.

Dialogue and building influence

We heard over and over in focus groups and interviews about the importance of creating space for people to connect across their differences before change can occur. One person told us, “Policy change is crucial, but we can’t get to policies when people in communities can’t even talk to each other.”

Effective cross-identity dialogue and changing the current patterns of political influence are necessary to implementing the strategies recommended in this report.[90] Genuine cross-identity dialogue consists of structured, facilitated interactions in which participants from different identities (e.g. race, economic class) share experiences with the goal of building meaningful relationships across difference.[91] To move beyond discussion and move toward action, this sharing of experiences must be “contextualized in systems of power and privilege as well as in mutual [responsibility] for individual and social change.”[92] Research suggests that when done correctly, cross-identity dialogue can increase understanding of intergroup inequality, intergroup empathy, intergroup collaboration and action and an increase in critical thought about unequal policies and practices.[93] This dialogue has been shown to increase civic action—such as “voting to influence political structures” and “working to correct social and economic inequalities”—over time.[94]

Dismantling the barriers to democratic participation and political influence for people of color and low-income people are crucial to both reversing existing discriminatory policies, preventing future discriminatory policies and enacting proactively equitable policies.[95] In the context of furthering the recommendations in this report, future directions include working with community-based organizations already leading effective cross-identity dialogue to bolster the relationships, alliances and civic participation needed to follow-through on the recommendations, and growing the scale of new and existing work for regional-level change.

Solving for unstable diversity and inclusion

The Chicago region does not have a strong history of places with stable, diverse inclusion. In our scan of census tracts from 1990 to 2010, we found that three-quarters of tracts with no racial majority in 1990 had changed to one majority by 2010. We need to better understand what works to create and maintain areas of long-term diversity and inclusion – such as Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park and Oak Park – in order to build more inclusive spaces throughout the region.

Better understanding the negatives of concentrated white wealth

We began this work over two years ago with the contention that the word segregation is frequently misunderstood and misused. That is, the negatives of segregation are typically discussed in terms of its negative impact on low-income communities of color. On the other hand, majority white, higher income areas are not only not considered segregated, they are often depicted only in positive terms. This creates a stigmatization of black and brown spaces while further idealizing white, wealthy places. Additionally, most research on the benefits of integration focus on the increased quality of life for low-income people of color, rather than on a deeper understanding of reciprocal benefits of racially and economically diverse communities for all races.

More discussion and research on the potential negatives of concentrated white wealth is needed. Questions for exploration include: To what extent are there negative social consequences for white individuals who live in segregated white environments? What are the costs to these individuals and communities, and to the broader region they in which they reside?

Solving for the negatives of integration for people of color

Our own and other’s research raises concern that, to the degree there are negative impacts of integration, the vast majority of them are borne by people and communities of color. For example, when schools are inequitably integrated, students of color often face implicit bias and tracking into lower-achievement classes. When neighborhoods become whiter, long-term residents of color may be displaced from their home due to rising costs, and communities with deep historical and cultural roots may be forced to change. Residents who remain may face increased monitoring by their new neighbors and heightened surveillance by police and other authorities.

While MPC’s literature review of this topic has yielded substantial research, a more deliberate dissemination of this knowledge and, most importantly, intentional implementation of how to mitigate these negatives, is needed.

Metropolitan Chicago’s outlook

The Metropolitan Planning Council analyzed the various ways our region has shifted in terms of race, ethnicity and income since 1990. And we’ve also looked ahead with population projections for 2030, provided by our research partners at The Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization.

The look back provides an opportunity to learn from our trends, while the projections offer a sense of where the region is headed without substantial intervention. We can draw valuable lessons—and a much-needed sense of urgency—from both as we collectively make plans to address our region’s inequities.

Looking back: Four key trends stand out when we analyze change since 1990

Racial segregation is the Chicago region’s typical experience

Just one quarter of census tracts experienced a change in racial majority. In 1990, 95 percent of the region’s census tracts featured a majority of a racial group. By 2010, 88 percent of the region’s census tracts featured a majority.

Chart of percentage of census tracts with a racial majority since 1990

Racial change occurred most often in Latino areas, least often in black areas

Majority African-American census tracts were the least likely to change with less than 6 percent of those tracts losing their African American majorities. Majority Latino census tracts were five times more likely to change, with nearly 29 percent of those census tracts losing their Latino majorities. The majority Latino census tracts that lost their Latino majorities were all located in the city; and those shifting areas most often became census tracts with white majorities.

Chart of percentage of census tracts that changed from 1990 to 2010

Racial integration is fleeting

The census tracts most likely to change were those that did not feature a racial majority in 1990. Roughly two-thirds of census tracts with no racial majority in 1990 shifted to a racial majority by 2010. While white and Asian census tracts experienced population growth, African-American and Latino census tracts declined in population. And while nonwhite population grew dramatically in places that were majority white, the population of whites actually declined in those areas, particularly as the share of nonwhite population in those areas increased.

The poles of race and income are most intractable

The areas where racial and economic segregation were most locked in place were either low-income and African American or high-income and white. While more than 44 percent of all census tracts witnessed a shift in either racial majority or income majority between the five-year periods ending in 2011 and 2016, majority African American and majority low-income census tracts witnessed a shift in race or income less than 10 percent of the time. Majority white and majority high-income census tracts shifted by race or income less than fifteen percent of the time.

Chart of census tracts experiencing race or income change 2007–2011 tp 2012–2016

Looking ahead

The Urban Institute’s 2030 projections show that if current trends continue, the Chicago region will grow faster than it has in recent years. The region as a whole will become more racially and ethnically diverse; more than 50 percent of the region’s population will be non-white by 2030.

However, absent policy shifts, that growth will be uneven. Overall, the region will lose white and African American population while experiencing significant growth of Latinos and Asians, and will grow in both the highest and lowest-income bands.

Without intervention, three likely trends stand out:

White population will grow in the city but decline in the suburbs, while Latino population will grow modestly in the city and dramatically in the suburbs

The City of Chicago will see increasing white population, but in certain parts of the city that growth will continue at the expense of Latino population loss—as it has for years in communities like Logan Square. White population will decline significantly in suburban parts of the region, particularly in suburban Cook County, while Latino population will grow rapidly.

Chart of percent change in population 2015 to 2030

Decline in the city’s African American population will continue

By 2030, Chicago’s African American population will drop to its lowest level since the 1950s. The city’s African American population has declined steadily since the 1980s. The continuation of such depopulation could signal further disinvestment without significant efforts and resources to reverse that trend.

Chart of African-American population in Chicago

Income inequality will continue to rise.

The region will experience significant growth in high-income households. However, much of that growth will occur in Chicago, especially near downtown Chicago. While the number of low-income households in the region will also increase, a disproportionate share will occur in suburban parts of the region.

Chart of percent change in low- and high-income households 2015 to 2030


Our recommendations were informed by topical advisory groups, qualitative research, case studies of other regions and an analyses of current and projected population trends.

Phase I: First-of-its-kind study drives national conversation

MPC launched the nation’s first comprehensive study on the economic impact of segregation in 2015 with two driving questions: 1) What does it cost metropolitan Chicago to live so separately by race and income? 2) What can be done to change patterns of segregation and inequity, so that everyone can participate in and create a stronger future?

This work culminated with the research results in the March 2017 Cost of Segregation report, revealing the staggering cost of lost lives, lost income and lost educational potential. Based on 2010 data, Chicago ranked fifth in the nation among metro areas with the most extreme combined racial and economic segregation. If Chicagoland improved even just to the national median, the region could expect to see:

  • $4.4 billion in increased earnings for African-Americans
  • $8 billion gained in overall regional Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
  • 30 percent fewer homicides per year
  • 83,000 additional Bachelor’s Degrees

Shared by over 300 media outlets (among them the Economist, Forbes, Chicago Tribune, Ebony and National Public Radio), the report served as a starting point for bringing stakeholders around the Chicago region to the table. In less than a year since its release, the findings have been viewed more than 3 million times.

Phase II: Learning through qualitative research and forming recommendations

MPC worked with the Urban Institute to project Chicago’s level of segregation by 2030, if no major interventions are put into place. This research showing future demographic trends demonstrates why Chicago’s leaders need to take sustained efforts to implement policy recommendations, since our future trajectory maintains current divisions.

To answer the Phase II driving question about how to address segregation and inequity, the MPC project team launched an extensive process of qualitative data analysis consisting of stakeholder interviews, a comprehensive survey and targeted focus groups. These analyses began with the identification of five geographic groupings (i.e. ‘typologies’) across race and income level that we used to collect regional data to support our recommendations.

After the typology identification stage, the project team developed a codebook—a ‘bank’ of themes that might emerge from the data. This made it possible to view specific excerpts through different lenses. In total, the team developed a set of approximately 150 codes that could be applied to the data during the analysis process. By determining which codes most frequently applied, we were able to draw conclusions regarding the most promising policy strategies to advance, and the best ways to frame these solutions to be most accessible.

Stakeholder interviews and survey

Over four months, the MPC team conducted 25 stakeholder interviews across all typologies and administered a comprehensive survey—with a 51 percent response rate—to over 200 leaders working across government, community-based organizations, philanthropy and the private sector. Through both, we aimed to capture perspectives on the current and aspirational equity priorities of residents across the region, the value and efficacy of different policy approaches and the potential receptivity to and feasibility of our strategies.

Focus groups

During the conversations with our interviewees, the team began to note that there were a number of populations that we hadn’t yet incorporated into our thinking surrounding our strategies. As a result, we made the decision to conduct focus groups with the 5 target audiences below—and 40 attendees in total— in order to understand the complexity of lived experiences with regards to equity:

  • Young people (high school and post-high school youth)
  • Residents of neighborhoods that are black and brown
  • Aging populations
  • Non-African Americans living in predominantly African-American neighborhoods
  • Those working in dialogue and influence-building

Report release and implementation

This second report advances policy recommendations to change patterns of segregation and inequity by 2030. It represents the culmination of a two-year collective impact project that brought together ideas from more than 100 local people, including residents living in diverse geographic areas, youth striving for a better future and professionals working in community-based organizations.

The results of this learning process lead MPC to the next phase of this work: concrete implementation.

Advisor engagement

MPC’s efforts benefited from the expertise of 110 advisors. Local experts met within Working Groups to prioritize strategies and implementation partners. Experts developed a shared understanding of the problems, while discovering potential solutions to unlock contemporary barriers to injustice. Working Groups consisted of local leaders on the topics of housing, economic development, education, public health and safety, transportation and land use.

We sought an in-depth understanding of two regions that have addressed segregation and inequity in different ways: Atlanta and Seattle. MPC organized delegations to these regions to analyze innovative policies with an eye toward implementation in Chicago. From these study trips, MPC and its diverse delegations (stakeholders in government, philanthropy, business and grassroots community organizations) gained new insight into strategies such as government-led racial equity frameworks and social inclusion within areas ripe for gentrification.


  • Metropolitan Planning Council
  • Urban Institute
  • The Chicago Community Trust
  • John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

The Chicago Community Trust and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation funded this research from inception to implementation. The Chicago Community Trust is a community foundation dedicated to improving our region through strategic grant making, civic engagement and inspiring philanthropy. The MacArthur Foundation is one of the world’s largest independent foundations and supports creative people, effective institutions, and influential networks building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world.

We are grateful for their financial and intellectual support of this project, in particular Ianna Kachoris, Tara Magner, Peggy Davis and Joanna Trotter.

MPC is grateful for additional support from The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bowman C. Lingle Trust, CIBC, Conant Family Foundation, Enterprise Community Partners, Ford Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Polk Bros. Foundation, U.S. Bank, and Woods Fund Chicago.

MPC partnered with the Urban Institute to conduct projections to 2030. Urban Institute is a Washington D.C.-based organization that conducts research to understand and solve real-world challenges in a rapidly urbanizing environment. Urban Institute does not take positions on issues. Scholars are independent and empowered to share their evidence-based views and recommendations shaped by research.

For this phase of work, we especially thank Rolf Pendall and Erika Poethig.

The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and should not be attributed to advisors, funders or MPC board members.

Project lead

Marisa Novara


  • Matt Altstiel
  • Emily Blum
  • Bob Dean
  • Nancy Firfer
  • Kendra Freeman
  • Jeremy Glover
  • Liz Granger
  • Chloe Gurin-Sands
  • Angie Leyva
  • Alden Loury
  • Lynnette McRae
  • Janet Myers
  • Madeline Shepherd
  • Gabriel Charles Tyler
  • Shehara Waas
  • Audrey Wennink

Principal consultant

Amy Khare

Project consultants

  • Niketa Brar
  • Emily Miller
  • Jessica Smith Atassi

Research assistants

  • Jack Balch
  • Elena Becerril
  • John Borthwick
  • Molly Clark
  • Amorita Falcon
  • Benjamin Fenton
  • Kristen French
  • Ernest Jefferson
  • Kevin Magnan
  • Sawyer Middeleer
  • Victoria Moreno
  • Elizabeth O’Brien
  • Vivek Ramakrishnan
  • Naomi Rapp
  • Adam Rykaert
  • Martha Templeton
  • Matthew Tysinski
  • Andres Villatoro
  • Xinyi Wang
  • Jeff Wozencraft
  • Xue Yuan

This project has been guided at every step by a committed group of advisors. Special thanks to:

  • Betsy Benito
  • Matt Brewer
  • Rob Breymaier
  • Chris Brown
  • Todd Brown
  • Susan Campbell
  • Paul Carlisle
  • Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning
  • Jahmal Cole
  • Chris Conley
  • Patricia Fron
  • Andy Geer
  • Caroline Goldstein
  • Caronina Grimble
  • Angela Hurlock
  • Joe Iacobucci
  • Bernita Johnson-Gabriel
  • Rachel Johnston
  • Ianna Kachoris
  • Juan Carlos Linares
  • David Luna
  • David Marzahl
  • Sylvia Puente
  • Raul Raymundo
  • Jay Readey
  • Jennifer Ritter
  • Rachel Scheu
  • Stephanie Schmitz Bechteler
  • Paul Shadle
  • Nedra Sims Fears
  • Judith Singleton
  • Heather Smith
  • Geoff Smith
  • Joanna Trotter
  • Kate Walz
  • Kyle Whitehead
  • Brad Winick
  • Paula Wolff

In addition, development of this roadmap was informed by more than 75 stakeholders who participated through topical working groups, one-on-one discussions and more. Special thanks to:

  • Roseanna Ander
  • Heather Anichini
  • David Ansell
  • Charlie Barlow
  • April Bernard
  • Jim Bloyd
  • Niketa Brar
  • Vaughn Bryant
  • Jonathan Burch
  • Megan Campbell
  • Ann Cibulskis
  • Maurice Classen
  • Allison Clements
  • Sheri Cohen
  • Dan Cooper
  • Franklin Cosey-Gay
  • Megan Cunningham
  • Mary Kate Daly
  • Kristi DeLaurentiis
  • Sarah Delgado
  • Fernando Demaio
  • Amara Enyia
  • Wesley Epplin
  • Kristin Faust
  • Joycelyn Fontaine
  • Craig Futterman
  • Melody Geraci
  • Sharlyn Grace
  • Alaina Harkness
  • Daniel Hertz
  • Rebecca Janowitz
  • Candice Jones
  • Mecole Jordan
  • Andrea Juracek
  • Max Kapustin
  • Jennifer Keeling
  • Micere Keels
  • Maria Kim
  • Anne Ladky
  • Emily Laflamme
  • Rebecca Levin
  • Lori Lightfoot
  • Phoebe Lin
  • Kate Lowe
  • Anthony Lowery
  • Celia Lozano
  • Jess Lynch
  • John Maki
  • Jawanza Malone
  • Tiffany Manuel
  • Tiffany McDowell
  • Sharone Mitchell
  • Olivia Mulcahy
  • Katya Nuques
  • Heather O’Donnell
  • Destiny Ortega
  • Rosa Ortiz
  • Bob Palmer
  • Jonathan Peck
  • Beatriz Ponce de Leon
  • Dolores Ponce de Leon
  • Nik Prachand
  • Roberto Requejo
  • Robin Robinson
  • Rob Rose
  • Zoe Russek
  • Erica Salem
  • Lisa Scruggs
  • Raj Shah
  • Robin Snyderman
  • Robin Steans
  • Randolph Stone
  • Jose Torres
  • Trina Whatley
  • Ilana Walden
  • Kim Wasserman Nieto
  • Bob Weissbourd
  • Vanessa Westley
  • Sodiqua Williams
  • Drew Williams-Clark
  • Stacie Young

Photos: Alexander Gouletas and Michelle Kanaar

Icons: Diversity by Cara Foster and Checking by Gregor Cresnar from the Noun Project


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