Some parts of our region have experienced a persistent, long-term lack of market investment, leading to declining property values, tax receipts, employment, and population. Markers of economic disconnection and disinvestment exist in every county of the region, frequently appearing around older subregional job centers like Joliet, Aurora, Elgin, and Waukegan. Long-term patterns -- including racially discriminatory policies like the historical segregation of housing, as well as market shifts in residential and commercial demand -- have contributed to economic struggles in some areas. The multi-faceted and persistent nature of such disinvestment often outstrips the ability of any one community to respond effectively. Regardless of their assets, disinvested areas generally struggle to meet the core requirements of market feasibility, with exceptionally weak demand, a lack of anchors or agglomeration potential, negative reputation, and/or a lack of developer confidence in public sector capacity or market feasibility. Disinvestment can constrain municipal revenues as fewer and fewer residents and businesses remain to pay taxes. Residents who are unable or unwilling to move -- many seniors and low income households, for example -- may make up a larger share of the community. These residents may also suffer poorer health than those who live in areas with more access to resources.
Disinvested areas broadly refers to both Economically Disconnected Areas (EDAs) and struggling commercial and industrial areas. EDAs have a concentration of low income and minority or limited English proficiency residents, while disinvested commercial and industrial areas have experienced a loss of economic activity over a sustained period. Both types of areas have substantive overlap. Solutions to promote vital places and new market-driven investment complement those targeted to promote economic opportunity for residents. ON TO 2050 also identifies strategies to build the assets and capacity of the region’s under-resourced communities. These combined individual, built environment, and community driven solutions are required to comprehensively promote inclusive growth.
Disinvestment also affects the ability of municipalities to serve their residents and businesses. A low base of property, sales, and other taxes can lead to higher property tax rates in communities struggling with economic development, furthering a lack of attention and investment from the private sector. A mismatch between local property values and revenue requirements creates these high property tax rates in disinvested areas, and local policies like Cook County property tax classification can exacerbate the disparities. The resulting municipal revenue constraints can leave communities with fewer resources to invest in local infrastructure or public services, again furthering a cycle of disinvestment. The map below highlights the disproportionately high tax rates in many of the region’s struggling communities. Greater investment in these communities is integral to improving their fiscal health, and the prosperity of the region overall.