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Northeastern Illinois' foreclosure devastation rivals Gulf Coast housing losses

The Oct. 23 roundtable with Northrop Grumman’s Dorothy Shaw, Rush Medical Center’s Terry Peterson, The South Suburban Housing Collaborative’s Janice Morrissy and Lake Forest Alderman Tom Morsch was pretty exciting.  As we all work to promote sustainable communities – inspired by  the Obama administration’s interagency effort amongst HUD, DOT and EPA -- it’s helpful to identify versatile and effective tools that work in a range of market places.  Clearly, Friday’s speakers underscored that Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) is indeed such a tool.

The story from our Mississippi guest, Dorothy Shaw, was particularly inspiring. 

By way of background: When Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, all of us in the community development arena felt compelled to identify some way in which we could be helpful.  As such,  when MPC “got the call” from the newly formed Gulf Coast Renaissance Corporation of Mississippi, we were happy to help.  Their ask of us was pretty straight forward: Could we advise them on crafting an employer-assisted housing (EAH) strategy that could leverage the interest of the local business community to rebuild the housing stock needed to maintain a local workforce?  Board member Dorothy Shaw offered Northrop Grumman as the local pioneer.  In addition to our humanitarian interests, at the time, MPC was also eager to engage a state so different from Illinois in our national EAH policy advocacy efforts.  In our wildest imagination, however, we never anticipated that the Chicago region would encounter housing devastation in any way comparable to that of the Gulf Coast.

When Dorothy told the roundtable audience about all the progress underway in Mississippi since Katrina --and the very concrete role that EAH played in leveraging private and public sector investment and leadership -- we were all stunned by two realizations:  First, the market place is indeed “coming back” with such force.  And second, the foreclosure trends in northeastern Illinois -- where there have been approximately 100,000 foreclosure filings since January 2008 (57,927 in 2008 and 46,069 through the third quarter of 2009) -- indeed rival the housing devastation experienced in Mississippi’s Gulf Coast (where the hurricane destroyed or damaged approximately 70,000 homes).  For Terry Peterson and Janice Morrissy, who are addressing these housing challenges from the private and public sector perspectives in the city and the southern suburbs respectively, this was a particularly poignant – and hopeful – realization.

Terry, Janice and Tom Morsch each had their own inspiring success stories, and progress to report, but I think Dorothy’s perspective was the most amazing to all of us.  To learn more about the roundtable, download the presentations: 

  • Dorothy Shaw’s presentation on Northrop Grumman’s EAH program in Mississippi
  • Terry Peterson’s presentation on Rush’s efforts to support the Plan for Transformation through EAH and Reconnecting Neighborhoods
  • Janice Morrissy’s presentation on the South Suburban Housing Collaborative
  • Tom Morsch’s presentation on Lake Forest’s current housing work and its emerging interjurisdictional partnerships.
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