Regional Housing Initiative
Chicagoland has grappled for decades with concentrated poverty and a lack of housing choices for low-income families. Rising housing costs coupled with the recent unemployment crisis served to further concentrate affordable housing and poverty in neighborhoods with high crime and poor access to jobs, transit and amenities. Municipal zoning and development regulations that discourage multifamily housing development and declining federal housing financing have further exacerbated this trend, making it difficult to build in some of the region’s highest opportunity communities. The results: far too many families living in precarious housing conditions, growing regional inequality, a dysfunctional housing market with few options for developers or renters, and hampered regional economic growth, public safety and health.
RHI has created 406 apartments in 28 successful developments, like Emerson Square in Evanston, Ill.
To address the region’s growing housing challenges, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and eight regional housing authorities created a collaborative called the Regional Housing Initiative (RHI) to support affordable and mixed-income housing developments in communities near transit, jobs centers, quality schools and amenities (“opportunity areas”). Since 2002, RHI partners have worked with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, suburban employers and a range of local and regional stakeholders to overcome a number of housing and community development challenges through several promising strategies.
Since 2002, the public housing authorities participating in RHI have pooled a portion of their available rental assistance vouchers to provide long-term support for the rehabilitation or construction of multifamily, affordable rental homes in opportunity communities across the region. That means RHI can adapt to the changing housing market and economic climate more flexibly than current federal funding flows permit. For example, despite the growing need for affordable housing in the suburbs, the Chicago and Cook County Housing Authorities receive higher levels of voucher subsidies than the suburban housing authorities. By allowing eight housing authorities to pool their resources, RHI created a mechanism through which a suburban housing development can receive subsidies even if the local housing authority lacks resources. The Chicago and Cook County Housing Authorities see clear benefits in contributing vouchers to other communities in the region because waiting list families from all eight geographies are offered expanded housing opportunities. The pooling and transferring of subsidies has allowed RHI to support 406 apartments in 28 developments in 19 communities.
Angela Nash is one of many who have "moved up" to quality neighborhoods thanks to collaboration and counseling.
While RHI addressed development challenges, an MPC survey of regional public housing authorities showed that most rent voucher holders are not "moving up" into better neighborhoods, even as public housing authorities spend $1 million each year to facilitate such moves. In an era of declining federal resources for housing and poverty interventions, in 2011 the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded RHI a vote of confidence and $1 million to pilot new strategies to help families. For the past three years, the Chicago region has been using a regional waiting list for families who want to move into RHI developments and providing education on mobility and portability to support families leaving high poverty, distressed communities for opportunity communities across the region. The pilot is helping more low-income families find homes in attractive communities across the region, while overcoming some of the administrative inefficiencies and barriers experienced by participating housing authorities.
For more information
Watch the video and learn more at metroplanning.org/rhi
312 863 6029