Quality housing + transportation

MPC works with communities, developers and government agencies to integrate quality, affordable homes into healthy communities with transportation options, job opportunities and good schools.

Regional Housing Initiative: The Path to Opportunity

Tijuana Ewing remembers when she moved into her home, an apartment building in Waukegan, Ill., where she lives with her two children. She remembers that day, she says, not because anything unusual happened—but because “it was a quick and easy process,” she said. “Yes, I do believe I’ll stay here for a long time.”

Ewing moved into one of nearly 1,700 apartment units that have been created in 25 developments in great communities across metropolitan Chicago, through the MPC-led Regional Housing Initiative. “RHI provides financial incentives to developers to help them create quality, affordable rental homes in areas with good jobs, quality schools, reliable transportation and strong retail,” says Breann Gala, project manager with the Metropolitan Planning Council, which has been refining RHI incentives over the last decade. “Ultimately, we are working to improve upward mobility and expand options for low- and moderate-income people.”

RHI creates affordable housing in attractive communities, like Grove Apartments in Oak Park.

Since the recession, more of the nation’s poor live in the suburbs than in cities. In Chicagoland, according to a Brookings Institution analysis, the number of suburban households living in poverty grew by more than 76 percent in the 2000s. Nearly 50 percent of households in the region reported being housing cost burdened, meaning they pay more than 30 percent of their incomes for housing and utilities.

RHI directly addresses that problem by creating opportunities for families to live in attractive communities while paying reasonable rents set at 30 percent of their incomes. Here's how it works: Eight participating public housing authorities in Chicagoland pool a portion of their available rental assistance to provide support to developers to rehabilitation or construct multi-family, affordable rental homes. Collaboration is the essential ingredient to RHI’s success: Housing authorities allocate vouchers to developers, but also can share them with other housing authorities that may need them for a particular project. MPC matches suitable developments to this funding and helps coordinate the one-of-a-kind partnership between the eight housing authorities and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) that makes these incentives available.

Christine Klepper

“In an age of economic challenges, regional solutions like this one are particularly attractive.”

—Christine Klepper, Executive Director of Housing Choice Partners

David Northern

“We’ve partnered together to work as a team rather than just represent jurisdictional lines.”

—David Northern, Executive Director of Lake County Housing Authority

David Northern

“The more counties you have pooling together resources, the more you can get done.”

—Jessica Berzac, President of Tangerine Development Group LLC

One example of the program is Grove Apartments, located in the transit-rich, thriving and diverse Village of Oak Park. Formerly a long-vacant Comcast building, this attractive adaptive reuse is now home to 51 low-income households, with many accessible units for persons with disabilities.

“It’s housing that fits into the community and is near jobs and transit,” says Christine Klepper, executive director of Housing Choice Partners, which works with RHI-eligible families. “In an age of economic challenges, regional solutions like this one are particularly attractive.”

“Housing authorities all have different levels of resources,” says David A. Northern Sr., executive director of the Lake County Housing Authority. “The importance of RHI is that, working together, housing authorities provide resources in communities. We’ve partnered together to work as a team rather than just represent jurisdictional lines. If we have the opportunity to build housing that is near jobs and transportation, let’s do that as a group.”

Developers who participate in RHI also say it has helped them overcome barriers to creating quality rental homes in communities with opportunities for families to thrive. Through RHI, the owner of the development receives a steady source of rental income throughout the 15-year operating subsidy. Developers using RHI also are more competitive for IHDA’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

One example of the program is A Safe Place in Zion, an organization that provides permanent housing for women who are victims of domestic violence. The organization provides clients with on-site and supportive services, as well as counseling; after a year A Safe Place offers tenants tenant-based vouchers.

“The RHI program could definitely be expanded,” adds Jessica Berzac, president of Tangerine Development Group LLC in Chicago, whose mission is to aid and assist in the critical housing needs of people with disabilities or those facing homelessness. “The more counties you have pooling together resources, the more you can get done.”

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For more than 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area's toughest planning and development challenges. MPC works to solve today's urgent problems while consistently thinking ahead to prepare the region for the needs of tomorrow. Read more about our work »

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