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Good Housing, Good Schools: It's the law

By signing into law Good Housing Good Schools (formerly SB 220, now Public Act 95-0330), Gov. Rod Blagojevich stepped up the state’s commitment to providing housing affordable to the local workforce, in high job growth areas, as well as to preserving the stock of affordable housing currently at risk.  But what makes this legislation most significant, if funded, is its ability to provide real incentives to municipalities advancing those goals.   

Yes, the state’s Comprehensive Housing and Planning Act movedIllinois closer to a sensible way of encouraging local responses to the profound shortage of affordable housing.  And yes, this legislation   -- especially through the Illinois Housing Development Authority -- continues to seed numerous initiatives beginning to address the profound demand for supportive housing, senior housing, preservation, and other key priorities.

But several key principles of the Comprehensive Housing and Planning Act are still unfulfilled – most notably its focus on incentives for local leaders, especially those outside the housing arena.  ("Can 'Live Near Work' work better?" describes the state’s need to step up its overall “live near work” strategy .)

Good Housing, Good Schools can provide financial incentives to the school districts in towns supporting the rehab or development of quality, affordable, multifamily homes. For example, a school district in a community that approves a 45-unit two or three-bedroom condominium or apartment building could receive over $60,000 – enough to pay for an extra teacher.

Too many young families in Illinois are struggling to achieve the most basic of dreams: finding an attractive neighborhood with both housing they can afford and schools they can trust. Good Housing, Good Schools will help ensure more communities in Illinois fit this bill and advance the goals of the state’s Comprehensive Housing and Planning Act.

With the bill signed into law, the next step is to get this legislation funded, optimally through the Illinois State Board of Education.  Given that teachers themselves stand to gain from this legislation --  as demonstrated by popularity of the Chicago Public Schools employer-assisted housing program – and that mixed-income housing itself benefits schools, ISBE clearly has more to gain than to lose from this modest investment in this potentially major implications.

Why major?  Since a similar piece of legislation was put into effect in Massachussetts last January, over 1,500 homes were approved in "high job districts," which are comparable to Illinois "live near work" communities.  Similar approval rates would be profound in Illinois, where this legislation can also benefit redeveloping communities in addition to those near job centers. 

 

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