Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced on Dec. 21 that she has designated up to $70 million of National Foreclosure Settlement funding for housing counseling services and relief efforts for Illinois communities fraught with vacant and abandoned properties that have been hardest hit by foreclosure. Proposals to fund housing counseling services for homeowners and renters, and redevelopment initiatives for neighborhoods are due by Feb. 15, 2013, in response to the Attorney General's RFQ / RFP (including this Appendix).
This fantastic bit of year-end news was welcome relief for communities and homeowners in Illinois, which posted some of the highest foreclosure rates in the nation in 2012. Attorney General Madigan's funding announcement came at a particularly opportune time: On Dec. 18, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer introduced legislation creating a Cook County Land Bank Authority, to acquire vacant and abandoned properties throughout the region and return them to productive use. Earlier in 2012, the Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative began piloting a land bank with Oak Forest, Park Forest and Blue Island. Both land banks hold great promise to support community revitalization in the wake of devastating foreclosures. Of the Cook County land bank, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said, "As we all work together to halt foreclosures and put vacant properties back to productive use, a land bank has the potential to be an incredibly powerful piece of our strategy. A land bank will help bolster the City's efforts, like the City's Micro-Market Recovery Program, to ensure every community is free of vacant properties."
Indeed, if approved, the National Foreclosure Settlement Funding can get these land banks off to a great start, as well as support ongoing work by three clusters of communities in metropolitan Chicago—which encompass some 33 suburbs—working together to address complex housing and community development challenges, including foreclosure recovery. MPC hosted a roundtable in December 2012 to highlight the work of these clusters, which have been implementing a unified strategy for attracting and investing resources for nearly three years, demonstrating the promise of a burgeoning model known as interjurisdictional collaboration. At the roundtable, MPC, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and Metropolitan Mayors Caucus released the report Supporting and Sustaining Interjurisdictional Collaboration for Housing and Community Development, which recommends policy reforms and best practices to support the success of these pioneers, and to make it easier for this model to be replicated across metropolitan Chicago and other U.S. regions.
The $70 million in funding also can support the work of the Regional Homeownership Preservation Initiative, a network of more than 70 organizations working collaboratively to address the foreclosure crisis through more coordinated and robust regional responses.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan praised Attorney General Madigan’s decision to dedicate the settlement funds to directly assist homeowners who are still struggling.
“Attorney General Madigan has been at the forefront of our national efforts to assist struggling homeowners while bolstering foreclosure prevention and response initiatives,” said Secretary Donovan. “Not only has the Attorney General joined many of her colleagues in helping homeowners, she is working to get these dollars to housing counseling and legal services groups so that homeowners can benefit directly.”
An advisory council of statewide housing and community development experts is assisting the Attorney General’s office with the grant evaluation process to determine effective allocation of grant funding. King Harris, chair of Harris Holdings, Inc., and immediate past chair of MPC, is a member of the council.