CNT in the News

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.

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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.

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Jacky Grimshaw Discusses Her Career In Planning & Politics

Streetsblog Chicago | September 21, 2018

Few players in Chicago’s transportation planning and advocacy scene have as impressive a resume and as deep an institutional memory as Jacky Grimshaw, the Center for Neighborhood Technology’s vice president for government affairs. She’s been with CNT since 1992, including creating and leading the nonprofit’s transportation and air quality programs for over a decade, and spearheading its Transit Future campaign for a new revenue stream for regional transit at the Cook County level.

Grimshaw has also served on the boards of the Chicago Transit Authority and the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board’senvironmental justice and public involvement committees. She recently completed terms on the women’s issues in transportation committee.

Before joining CNT, Grimshaw was a researcher in hematology and gastroenterology. She has also worked in both state and federal government, for the Chicago Public School district, and as a political advisor to Harold Washington, Chicago’s first Black mayor.

I recently sat down with Grimshaw at her home in Hyde Park to discuss her unorthodox career path, what she learned from working for Washington, her efforts to promote equitable transit-oriented development, why the Transit Future campaign is currently stalled, what she’d like to see from the next Chicago mayor, and more.

James Porter: You formerly worked as a researcher studying matters related to blood and disorders of the stomach and intestines. What made you switch careers and become involved in transportation planning and advocacy?

Jacky Grimshaw: Serendipity. I left hematology research because the guy I was working for and I had a disagreement because my great-grandmother died while my husband and I were on vacation, and there was an airline disruption. We couldn’t get back from Miami Beach on time. We had to do a variety of transportation modes to get back from Miami Beach. So I was late getting back from my vacation, and [the guy I was working for] thought I was disrupting his research schedule. I was very stressed from my grandmother dying and the trouble getting back, so I said “Don’t need your job” and I walked out. [Laughs.] I think I left in the early seventies, I don’t remember exactly…

JP: That seems like an abrupt switch…

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Lancaster city starts work on its climate action plan

LancasterOnline | September 17, 2018

Earlier this year, Lancaster became the first city in the northeast U.S. and one of the first 10 in the world to earn LEED Gold certification for sustainability.

But that was just the beginning, setting a “baseline” for a process that will stretch over generations, Mayor Danene Sorace said Thursday at an event commemorating the designation awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Moments later, she announced the next step: The development of a climate action plan.

It will incorporate strategies for reducing emissions from city operations, which could include options such as retrofitting buildings and purchasing more green energy. It will also offer guidelines for improving the city’s resilience to flooding and other repercussions of global warming.

Lancaster hopes to finish the plan by Earth Day, April 22, said Douglas Smith, senior planner. The city will work with Chicago-based consultants Elevate Energy and the Center for Neighborhood Technology.

Communities can no longer wait before taking action on climate change, Sorace said: “The time is clearly now.”

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You can find a job in Fishers, but good luck finding an apartment

The Indianapolis Star | August 21, 2018

Fast-growing Fishers has an even faster-growing problem: a growing gap between wages and residential rents.

The Hamilton County suburb has recently added hundreds of high-paying tech jobs, burnishing a reputation as a desirable landing spot for skilled young workers. That’s not the problem.

The snag is that those positions have helped drive rents so high that they outpace wage increases for many of the city's middle-class jobs in government, teaching, hospitals and the trades. That higher cost of living is making it difficult for those workers to move near their jobs, which adds to their transportation expenses.


Of course, most residents in Fishers and elsewhere in Hamilton County work in Indianapolis and other counties, so they also have high commuting costs. While the government says housing and transportation expenses together shouldn't exceed 45 percent of income, Fishers residents spend an average of about 60 percent of their pay on those necessities, according to the Center for Neighborhood Technology, a Chicago-based research firm.

“As a city you can lack affordable housing or public transit, but it is a very hard living arrangement if you lack both,” said HAND outreach coordinator Andrea Davis.

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City Plans to Expand TOD Ordinance to Include High-Frequency Bus Corridors

Streetsblog Chicago | June 25, 2018

In 2013 City Council passed Chicago’s first transit-oriented development ordinance, which halved the number of required on-site parking spots at new developments near transit stations – previously a 1:1 ration was mandated. In 2015 the Council beefed up the ordinance by essentially eliminating parking requirements near ‘L’ and metra stations, and doubled the size of the TOD zones.

Many have argued that the resulting TOD boom has been at best a mixed blessing. While the legislation has encouraged the construction of dense, parking-light housing near transit, most of the new buildings have been upscale apartment or condo buildings in affluent or gentrifying neighborhoods. Particularly in Logan Square, the new crop of high-end TODs along the Blue Line, generally with 10 percent on-site affordable units, have been blamed for accelerating gentrification and displacement of longtime residents.

For better or for worse, the city is ready to increase the amount of land that’s available for transit-oriented development. On Friday Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a proposal to expand the TOD ordinance again to include high-ridership, high-frequency CTA bus routes. The city says that this would make Chicago the first U.S. city to pursue such a policy.

“Chicago has been a national leader in transit-oriented development, and expanding the policy to bus lines will strengthen smart growth in the city,” Emanuel said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to work closely with communities to enhance the way we live, work and get around Chicago.”

Over the next six months, the city and the CTA will study possible strategies to encourage TOD along busy bus routes, focusing at first on Western, Ashland, Chicago Avenue and 79th Street. These four routes experience ridership that meets or exceeds areas of the Blue, Orange, Green and Pink lines, according to the CTA. Special attention will be paid to key bus-bus and bus-train transfer locations.

The study will include input from aldermen and community organizations, and the city claims it will have an eye on equity issues when developing the new TOD policy.

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