With little notice and even less wrangling, in March, regional Chicagoland leaders -- in coordination with the state -- responded in a unified voice to a request for comments issued by the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on its new Sustainable Communities Initiative. In the months before and after this joint effort, this solidarity has gone far beyond the crafting of a public statement to also include the creation of new programs, policies and opportunities.
Many of the voices reflected in these efforts include municipal leaders pursuing interjurisictional solutions, as well as the full range of agencies supporting their trailblazing.
By way of background, to gather input on how the new Sustainable Communities Initiative “should be structured in order to have the most meaningful impact on sustainable regional planning,” HUD’s request underscored:
a) a “top priority of President Barack Obama is to build economically competitive, healthy, opportunity-rich communities,” and
b) the primary goal of the Initiative “is to support multi-jurisdictional regional planning efforts that integrate housing, economic development, and transportation decision-making in a manner that empowers jurisdictions to consider the interdependent challenges of economic growth, social equity, and environmental impact simultaneously.”
Informing and reacting to the Obama administration’s commitment to these issues, many of the entities responding jointly to the HUD request for comments have already been coordinating through such partnerships as the Federal Investment Reform Initiative, Regional Home Ownership Preservation Initiative, and Regional ARRA Coordinating Council.
In 2010 alone, there’s been additional progress fostering sustainable and competitive regions. Here’s a sampling of recent activity:
- To understand its own role in this new global economy, where the focus is on competitive and sustainable regions, the State of Illinois – through its Governors Housing Task Force – has formed a Linkage Working Group focused on the state’s role in promoting the linkage of housing, transportation, jobs, and land-use among state agencies as well as among the state’s many regions and subregions.
- Already, informing the above, Gov. Pat Quinn approved new criteria for awarding Federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits, allocating dollars on a per capita basis to the city of Chicago, the broader metro region of Chicago, as well as larger cities, metropolitan areas, and rural areas downstate. Within each of those categories, proposals compete amongst themselves for various point categories such as “live near work” and “sustainable communities.”
- Recognizing that much of the region’s capacity around rental preservation is in the city of Chicago, despite the tremendous need in the surrounding towns, the Preservation Compact -- led by the Urban Land Institute Chicago (ULI Chicago) and funded by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation — recently announced MPC’s role implementing its suburban keystone intitiative.
- Supporting regionwide rental preservation, Cook County is now launching the Suburban Cook County Multifamily Preservation Initiative, a financing program that creates a one-stop shop – by aligning new and existing resources -- for experienced, multifamily rental property owners and developers investing in properties that support the Housing Endorsement Criteria of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus. Initially, dollars will be available for soft seconds, acquisition financing, operating subsidies, and energy efficient improvements. Among other key financial enhancements, eligible properties can earn additional points toward qualifying for Low Income Housing Tax Credits available through the Illinois Housing Development Authority.
While the first round of dollars budgeted through HUD for SCI was $150 million in both 2010 and 2011, Sec. Shaun Donovan has stated that the priorities of this Initiative – to enable “multi-jurisdictional partnerships to put in place the policies, codes, tools and critical capital investments to achieve sustainable development patterns” are reflected in HUD’s entire budget. And beyond HUD, in 2011, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation is also creating an Office of Livable Communities, with a $527 million budget “to improve local and state project planning and development capabilities…”
To learn more about the national direction and local innovation, it’s not too late to register for MPC’s April 27 Roundtable with HUD Sustainable Communities Initiative Director Shelley Poticha and local leaders.