CNT in the News

$15M Equitable Transit-Oriented Development Launched

Building Indiana | February 7, 2019

While Indianapolis’ low cost of living relative to larger cities is often touted as a competitive advantage, more than 28 percent of all households – approximately 106,000 families – in Marion County are housing cost-burdened, meaning that a family is spending more than 30 percent of its income on housing, according to Indianapolis-based Greenstreet Ltd. And if median wages in the region continue to stagnate or decline, as they have since 2010, we expect that number will increase.

One critical piece of the inclusive growth puzzle is affordable, transit-accessible housing. Thus, to promote inclusive growth in Indianapolis, our organizations – the Indianapolis Neighborhood Housing Partnership® (INHP), Cinnaire, and JPMorgan Chase – are partnering with the City of Indianapolis and other financial institutions, to launch the city’s first $15 million equitable transit-oriented development (ETOD) fund.

[...] Families that are housing cost-burdened often face difficult choices between housing affordability, quality and location. In places where affordable housing is not situated near jobs or transit, families often face higher transportation costs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, after housing, transportation is the second largest expense for the average American household. In Indianapolis, the Center for Neighborhood Technology found Indianapolis households spend 46 percent of their income on housing and transportation combined, compared to Cincinnati, Ohio, where households spend 42 percent and Buffalo, N.Y. residents who spend 39 percent.

Chicago's Deep Tunnel: Is it the solution to urban flooding or a cautionary tale?

Slate | January 2, 2019

That the Chicago River is reborn, that its tree-shaded promenades are thronged with strolling families, that new buildings turn toward the water and old buildings have opened new windows to face it, that people kayak in what was once an open cesspool in the middle of downtown—all of this is a point of pride here. People laughed when then-Mayor Richard J. Daley said in the ’70s that he’d one day like to see people grilling freshly caught fish on the river’s banks. Though it would have seemed insane in 1980 (or 1880), people do fish in the Chicago River today, and the number of species to be found here has multiplied tenfold in the past four decades.

That’s because Chicago built a second river, an infernal reflection of the first, tracing its course hundreds of feet below ground. On rainy days, this subterranean passage, a conduit that can hold more than 1 billion gallons of wastewater, welcomes a roaring torrent of shit, piss, and oily runoff from the downtown streets. This megasewer, a filthy hidden portrait to the Chicago River’s Dorian Gray, is dynamic enough to create its own wave action if not properly supervised. That’s what happened on Oct. 3, 1986, when a geyser blasted through a downtown street, lifting a 61-year-old woman’s Pontiac Bonneville into the air like a toy, nearly drowning the driver in dirty water. [...]

Chicago is vulnerable. Of the 15 largest metros in the United States, only Houston and Miami have higher rates of flood-insurance adoption. There were more than 181,000 flood-insurance claims in Chicago between 2007 and 2011 amounting to $773 million in damage, according to a 2014 report by the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a Chicago think tank. The figures almost certainly underestimate the problem, because not all insurance companies release flood-claim data, and many homeowners don’t have policies that cover street flooding or sewer back-ups. A separate study by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources recorded $2.3 billion in damage between 2007 and 2014, with more than 85 percent of payouts occurring in the Chicago metro area. What happens in Chicago is paradigmatic urban flooding: There is no correlation between FEMA flood plains and flooding damage. The dimensions of the crisis are human-made.

Climate Change Could Cause More Sewage Backups

Yale Climate Connections | November 20, 2018

Like many other cities, Chicago has a combined sewer system that moves rainwater and wastewater in the same pipes. So heavy rains can overwhelm the system, flooding residents’ basements with untreated sewage.  

Burns: “It’s just horrifying.”

Lori Burns is a lifelong resident of the city’s South Side.

Burns: “There’s a drain in the shower and water would be bubbling up from there, and then when the storms are really bad, the toilet would back up. So instead of the water going down and out of your house, it’s coming back through the toilet.”

As the climate changes and the Midwest gets more heavy rains, improving city infrastructure will be critical. But homeowners can also take action.

The nonprofit Center for Neighborhood Technology helped Burns plant a rain garden in her yard.

Burns: “We planted native species that have very, very deep roots so they are able to take up all of that rainwater that’s coming off the roof, and then you’ve got a beautiful garden that you and other critters of nature can enjoy.”

She also installed a backwater valve between her sewer line and the city’s. When the sewers are full of water during a storm, the valve shuts.

Burns: “It’s kept my basement dry ever since.”

Flood Control Work Underway in Midlothian, Oak Forest

Daily Southtown | November 20, 2018

For many south and southwest suburban residents, particularly those with basements, the date of April 18, 2013, brings back a flood of bad memories. With some communities seeing 4 or 5 inches of rain that day and extensive flooding, it was to be a watershed moment in the life of Helen Lekavich and a group of Midlothian residents, who formed the “Floodlothian Five” in the storm’s wake. Their efforts battling for flood relief in their community have paid off, with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District getting underway with a $7.6 million project on flood-prone Natalie Creek in Midlothian and neighboring Oak Forest. 

Thanks to the group’s efforts and working with the Center for Neighborhood Technology, Midlothian, in 2016, became the country’s first RainReady community. CNT has since worked with other south suburbs to develop plans to become “more resilient to too much rain” by employing cost-effective solutions, such a permeable surfaces for parking lots and designing soccer fields to do double duty as stormwater detention basins. Lower-cost ways of handling heavy rainfall events are needed as the frequency of such storms increases due to climate change.

Fight for affordable housing near transit lines takes on new urgency

Chicago Tribune | November 5, 2018

Ashley Galvan Ramos grew up in Logan Square, where she and her parents and sister often walked or used public transit to get around.

But after they lost their apartment to redevelopment, high rents in the gentrifying area forced the family first into homelessness and then to a house on the city’s western edge.

Though they still use transit, they now depend more on a car to get to jobs and school and to go shopping.

“It’s a little less convenient,” said Galvan Ramos, 20.

Galvan Ramos was one of more than 300 people at a recent march to protest high rents and support a proposed 100-unit affordable housing project on Emmett Street near the Logan Square Blue Line station. Children held signs in Spanish and English saying “Rent Control Now.”

The march and the proposed development are signs of growing urgency in the fight for affordable housing in the city, particularly near transit lines, community advocates say. Losing walkable neighborhoods and easy access to transit is especially hard on low- and middle-income families since owning and maintaining one or more cars is more expensive than taking the train.

“We’re trying to keep the issue front and center with developers, with the city, with the CTA, so they understand the importance,” said Jacky Grimshaw, a former CTA board member and vice president of government affairs at the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a nonprofit focused on sustainable development.

Advocates are calling on the city to do more to create affordable housing near transit, including in so-called transit-oriented development projects.

City of Boise Taking CNT Recommendations for Locating Housing

Idaho Press | September 21, 2018

Traditionally, housing is considered affordable if rent is only 30 percent of a resident’s income, but the city of Boise has said they are relying on recommendations from the Center for Neighborhood Technology that housing and transportation combined should cost a resident 45 percent of their income. City officials say a new development's location to the downtown core and proximity to a bus line means residents will spend less on transportation, making the complex an affordable option.