The issue: Inefficient, uncoordinated development
With suburban poverty rates at an all-time high, the region is experiencing significant community development challenges—including mounting home foreclosures, vacant properties and economic and traffic gridlock. Meanwhile, resources are in short supply at every level of government. Even if all communities had the staff capacity, political will and expertise to individually develop, implement and monitor sound strategies and policies, many issues—including housing, commercial development and infrastructure—do not adhere to municipal borders. Yet federal funding formulas and local policies tend to deal with these matters on a town-by-town basis, far too often leading to missed opportunities to leverage adjacent public and private investment, squandered resources and isolated neighborhoods that continue to struggle. In metropolitan Chicago’s 280-plus communities, there is a critical need to lower costs, increase capacity and improve the results of local planning and development efforts.
The solution: Work together to address shared challenges
In partnership with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, MPC is helping several clusters of Chicago suburbs pilot an innovative approach to housing and community development. By forging public-private partnerships, these municipal leaders are advancing more efficient and effective housing and community development strategies.
It is not new for municipalities to cooperate to achieve efficiencies; for instance, neighboring communities often contract with the same water provider or garbage collector to secure a lower cost. However, interjurisdictional collaboration for housing and community development is relatively untested—and metropolitan Chicago has become a national proving ground for this approach. Since 2009, 23 suburbs in South Cook County and five communities in West Cook County have been working together to advance jointly adopted redevelopment strategies, while a newer cluster of five northwest suburbs formalized their partnership in 2011.
Philanthropic funding has enabled each collaborative to hire a housing coordinator, who advances shared housing and community development strategies, builds the capacity of local municipalities and assists participating communities in securing public and private funding to tackle critical neighborhood stabilization issues. The collaboratives have moved from planning to implementing new investment and economic development strategies and tools.
The benefits: Smart investments and strategic tools
Since 2009, the south and west collaboratives have attracted more than $40 million in capital to the member communities, more than a 38:1 return on the philanthropic investment. Most of this funding supports foreclosure response strategies including the planned redevelopment of more than 200 properties and demolition of 40 blighted properties in targeted areas. Public investment includes highly competitive Sustainable Communities Challenge Grants from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, which have seeded two transit-oriented development funds to provide financing for housing and retail developments near rapid transit and a land bank to help transform vacant land to productive use. These new tools will allow the collaboratives to align investments seamlessly with the private sector.
CMAP has developed a Housing Investment Tool that helps towns prioritize developments for funding, advancing regional objectives in a noncompetitive, strategic manner. In addition, the groundbreaking Homes for a Changing Region planning process provides collaboratives with a long-term roadmap for addressing current and future residents’ housing needs.
The collaboratives’ unique role connecting municipalities, government, and nonprofit partners allows for the early identification of social and economic trends. MPC, along with its partners in the Regional Housing Partnership, recognized the impact of the growth in single-family rental homes across the south suburbs and created the guide Managing Single-Family Rental Homes to highlight best practices for municipalities and investors. As investors continue to purchase single-family homes to rent, municipalities are grappling with how manage this growing housing stock and to ensure that these homes are a benefit, not a burden to the community. The work did not stop with the publication: MPC, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, and other partners secured funding from the Illinois Attorney General’s National Foreclosure Settlement to pilot a range of code enforcement and landlord tracking strategies with the south collaborative. This two-year pilot will assess the impact of the cross-border implementation and lessons learned for the rest of the region.
Increase staff capacity
Members gain a dedicated, shared staff person with expertise on complex development issues.
Right-size your planning
Many issues do not adhere to municipal borders and can be more effectively and efficiently addressed in collaboration.
Leverage investments and private sector partnerships
A single point of entry makes it easier for developers, banks, employers and funders to work with municipalities. Coordination also sends a signal to the private sector that the area is a smart place to invest.
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