State housing policy growing legs to stand on - Metropolitan Planning Council

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State housing policy growing legs to stand on

Four pieces of housing-related legislation could provide the foundation for a meaningful state housing policy for Illinois.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointment of a Transition Team Housing Committee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) and staffed by the Metropolitan Planning Council, demonstrated his interest and leadership in improving housing choices in Illinois communities. Now the governor has the opportunity to adopt the committee's key recommendations, which have widespread consensus in the housing community:

  • articulate a state housing policy which identifies housing priorities and addresses the needs of historically underserved populations,
  • use the Local Planning Technical Assistance Act to support and encourage municipal leaders to address those priorities and
  • deploy a more efficient housing finance delivery system to make these objectives possible.

These recommendations further support the Housing Endorsement Criteria and Housing Action Agenda adopted by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, a group whose members are critical to the implementation of meaningful housing policy.

The Local Planning Technical Assistance Act of 2002 provided the foundation on which to build a state housing policy, but it has yet to be funded or implemented. This sensible growth legislation does three things. First, it defines what constitutes a comprehensive plan, and specifically includes affordable housing. Second, it recommends the State provide technical assistance — both in terms of dollars and in terms of advice — to municipalities needing help preparing such plans. And finally, it gives the governor prerogative to make municipalities more competitive for State funds (transportation, open space, etc) if they indeed are moving forward a housing plan that addresses the needs of people who live and work in their jurisdiction.

The recent passage of the Illinois Housing Initiative (HB 2345) through the House and the Senate builds on the framework laid by the Local Planning Technical Assistance Act. This bill incorporates key outcomes of both the affordable housing hearings organized by Ill. Rep. Julie Hamos (D-Evanston) and her peers last year and the key recommendations of the governor's Transition Team Housing Committee. Specifically, it creates a housing task force to formalize a policy that prioritizes the housing needs of underserved constituencies (seniors, low income workers who can not afford to live near their jobs, homeless people and those at risk of becoming homeless, among others). The Initiative further requires all the State agencies currently investing in housing (there are about 20, including the Illinois Housing Development Authority, Department of Human Services and Department of Aging) to pool resources for joint outreach.  This proactive approach enables the State to more efficiently seek and fund proposals consistent with this housing policy.

Effective planning is at the core of efficient government. And quality, affordable housing is fundamental to a household’s ability to achieve economic self-sufficiency while contributing to the local community and economy. The Local Planning Technical Assistance Act and the Illinois Housing Initiative promote sound public policy in a manner that is responsive to Illinois' fiscal quandary. Together, these two pieces of legislation, the first of which simply needs implementation while the other still needs to be signed by the governor, give municipal leaders the support they need to address the housing needs of people who live and work in their communities. And, importantly, they do so in a manner that promotes sensible growth.

Supporting these two pieces of legislation are two other bills that passed out of the House and the Senate this spring:

  • The Housing Opportunity Tax Incentive (HB 2246) offers a tax incentive to property owners who rent to families using Housing Choice Vouchers in opportunity areas — places with low poverty and a high tax base.  Given the shortage of affordable housing near jobs, this is meaningful legislation to help voucher holders live closer to jobs in neighborhoods that have long proven unavailable.
  • The Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act (HB 625) offers the proverbial “stick” to balance the above “carrots.” This bill requires municipalities with more than 5,000 people that do not have affordable housing for at least 10 percent of their residents to create a plan to ensure that they do. The bill further creates a State Appeal Board so that, down the road, if developers feel the city is unfairly denying affordable housing proposals, the State has the power to review and change the municipality’s ruling.

If you agree with the above pieces of legislation, please contact the governor's office to encourage him to proceed with implementation.

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