The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Chicago:
Housing Costs through the Roof

Aug 16, 2021

The cost of housing in Chicago—as in the rest of the country—has gotten even more out of reach for most workers. This, even as the eviction moratorium is expiring.

Ordinary people can pretty much forget about buying a home these days. In June, the median cost of homes sold in the nine-county Chicago area hit a record of $319,000. That was up more than 20% compared to a year before. And prices are up in almost every neighborhood and suburb.

This is in part driven by a new housing bubble, with the government ensuring low interest rates and with finance capital speculating on housing, much as it did before the 2008 crash.

There’s also just an absolute shortage of affordable housing: Not only are the few new homes built almost always extremely pricey, but most of the construction that is done in Chicago actually destroys affordable housing. According to Geoff Smith, the director of the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, “New constructions in Chicago are usually de-conversion jobs, where they turn a traditional two-flat into a single-family home.” In other words, they eliminate two apartments, in order to make one expensive single-family home.

While buying a home is impossible for many workers, renting is barely better. Overall, the price of rent in Chicago declined slightly during the pandemic– but that is misleading. The rent for expensive condo units came down, while rent in working class areas continued to rise. A Washington Post analysis found that in Chicago, rents for the highest-end homes dropped considerably, about 7.6% between the end of 2019 and the end of 2020—while rents for “lower quality” homes—the types workers are forced to live in—went up. This made rent even more unaffordable in the midst of the pandemic, all while thousands were being thrown out of work!

Banks, landlords, developers—all push to maximize their profits. And housing for the working-class majority is being pushed ever further out of reach—the insane result of a capitalist system.