Affordable Housing and Filtering

Mark Fruin

All readers of this blog will be familiar with the Emmett Street Affordable housing development in Logan Square by Bickerdike. People are excited that 100 units of affordable housing will be added to a neighborhood that is facing displacement pressure due to rising prices. The new development means that 100 people or families will have a new home near public transportation, which is a great thing.

The purpose of this piece is to show that the benefit of the Emmett Street project is greater than people realize. The reason for this compounded benefit is a process called filtering.

The benefit of the Emmett Street project is greater than people realize.

Consider 2 identical families with a need for affordable housing. They are friends with each other and their kids go to the same school. Family A lives in a two flat and although the rent is high the landlord is good and fixes anything that breaks. Family B lives nearby in a different two flat, but their rent is higher and the landlord is a jerk. Family B’s landlord neglects the property and for a week in the winter the unit didn’t have adequate heat. Family B is afraid to report the landlord because they don’t know how the system works and there aren’t any cheap options to move to that would allow their kids to stay in their school.

Emmett Street Development by Bikerdike

Now, suppose that when Emmett street opens up family A gets a unit in the building. This is great, Family A has a real need for affordable housing and this will provide security for them and their kids. This is the obvious benefit of Emmett street. The next benefit that isn’t so obvious, Family B applied but due to the huge demand for affordable housing and the limited number of units family B doesn’t get a unit. The benefit is that Family A’s unit opens up. Family B knows that unit is better and the landlord is better, so they quickly move in when Family A moves to Emmett Street. Family B doesn’t benefit as much as family A, but now they are paying a bit less rent and their landlord isn’t a jerk.

In this way more than 100 families can benefit from the Emmett Street development. Its still important to advocate for Family B in the future, but it’s good to know they will be in a less precarious position.

Obviously the above is a grossly over-simplified example, but hopefully it is able to communicate the concept of filtering and the compounding benefits of building affordable housing. This example could also be run the opposite way for why it’s important to prevent deconversion of two flats to single family homes.

Bikerdike: https://www.bickerdike.org/development-preservation/housing-development/emmett-street-project