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Southern suburbs awarded $2.4 million Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant

Today, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA) was awarded a $2.4 million Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to strengthen the Southland through a redevelopment strategy that builds off existing and planned rail assets and related housing and economic development opportunities.

Today’s hot-off-the-press news – and the fact that SSMMA was the only Illinois applicant to earn HUD challenge grant funding in this round – is the latest stamp of approval for taking an interjurisdictional approach to sustainable development. Less than 18 months ago, a group of south suburbs came together to form the Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative, which has been working with the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation (CSEDC), under the guidance of SSMMA, on a comprehensive, sustainable redevelopment strategy. Thanks to initial philanthropic support from The Chicago Community Trust, Grand Victoria Foundation and Field Foundation, which allowed the housing collaborative to align efforts and create efficiencies, their work has attracted significant resources: 

With today's announcement of the Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant, SSMMA will be able to capitalize a land acquisition fund, create a land banking entity, refine its data analysis technology, and accelerate its overall strategy to focus redevelopment and job creation around transportation corridors.

"We are grateful to HUD and the many partners who worked shoulder to shoulder with us on all these initiatives," said Janice Morrissy, director of housing initiatives, Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative. "In higher percentages than anywhere else in the Chicago region, thousands of families in our communities have lost their homes due to foreclosure and broader economic woes. We are so pleased that the same towns struggling with these heartbreaking trends are now seeing their vision of revitalization financially rewarded. Without such broad support from strong local, regional and national allies, we could not have pursued, much less seized, all of these opportunities."

For our part, MPC is thrilled that the Southland’s interjurisdictional approach is getting the attention and support it deserves – and informing good policy. Even if all of the municipalities in the region had the staff capacity, political will and expertise to develop, implement and monitor the programs necessary to address local development needs, many issues - such as housing, transportation and workforce development - do not adhere to municipal borders, and can be more efficiently and effectively dealt with on an interjurisdictional basis. Not only does the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s (CMAP) GO TO 2040 plan prioritize interjurisdictional coordination, but its own recently awarded Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant further lifted up interjurisdictional coordination as a strategy that warrants additional technical assistance and support across the region.

Hats off to the Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative, and all of its local partners – including SSMMA, CSEDC, Center for Neighborhood Technology, Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, Business and Professional People for the Public Interest, CMAP, Regional Transportation Authority, Regional Home Ownership Preservation Initiative, Preservation Compact, Chicago Metropolis 2020, Diversity, Inc., and of course the foundations who seeded this effort – who have fast-tracked the collaborative's progress toward creating a more sustainable, economically resilient Southland.

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