The South Suburban Housing Collaborative, a joint effort of 28 communities working through the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA), recently was awarded more than $9 million in federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funding by Cook County to address foreclosed and abandoned properties. It’s great news, but what’s even more interesting is their plan to make the most of this funding.
First, a bit of background: In January 2009, just after the federal government announced the NSP funding, the SSMMA held an open meeting of its member communities to discuss a new approach to housing issues. This new approach meant the communities would tackle their shared housing challenges – including foreclosures and vacant properties – together, by making strategic, targeted investments. Many of these towns lack the necessary staffing to adequately address these concerns; why compound this problem by reinventing the wheel in each community? Plus, housing markets are not typically bound by municipal borders. A collaborative solution made sense, so a number of communities agreed to explore this idea.
Over the past year, that number has grown to 28 communities that have joined or expressed interest in joining the collaborative. Support from several local foundations allowed the group to hire Director of Housing Initiatives Janice Morrissy, who is a dedicated resource working on behalf of all the member communities to help implement their development plans. Representatives from each community comprise the Steering Committee, which will approve an intergovernmental agreement to formalize the collaborative.
Cook County’s $9 million award will support housing rehab, redevelopment and demolition projects in 11 communities. It’s also a strong indication the county values the efficient, thoughtful approach the communities have taken. A second round of federal NSP dollars is hopefully coming soon, and other funding sources are being pursued to help all of the member communities – and to achieve the group’s comprehensive redevelopment plan: to create or preserve some 474 energy-efficient homes along the Calumet River and near existing and proposed south suburban transit lines, and to demolish and/or land bank for future development an additional 200 sites.
The collaborative will couple its bricks and mortar efforts with proactive foreclosure prevention, through increased housing counseling resources, mortgage modification events, and foreclosure mediation activities. They also know their redevelopment efforts must factor in proximity to transit, access to jobs, and energy-efficiency, so that families not only can afford their homes but also the costs associated with living in them, including energy and transportation expenses.
The collaborative will be very busy in 2010. If you have questions about their plans, please contact Janice Morrissy at (708) 922-4672 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column was also posted on South Suburban News.