Chicago's new housing plan forwards various MPC priorities - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Chicago's new housing plan forwards various MPC priorities

"Build Preserve Lead: A Housing Agenda for Chicago's Neighborhoods," the City's third five-year plan, sets forth a strategy that is both sensible and courageous.

Chicago is home to hundreds of competent housing professionals, organizations, and advocates. Many of these entities served as advisors as the Chicago Department of Housing embarked upon its third five-year plan.

Quality affordable housing is core to MPC’s agenda, which works to strengthen the connections between where people live and work, how they move from place to place, and the funding, education, land use, and tax policies that support them. Central to this mission, as a regional policy and advocacy organization, is promoting equity of opportunity, sensible growth, community reinvestment, and economic stability throughout the six-county region.

Given the regional demands for housing and the capacity of the City, MPC's housing work in Chicago in recent years has focused primarily on the Chicago Housing Authority's Plan for Transformation, and the historic rewrite underway of its zoning ordinance — both initiatives spearheaded outside the Department of Housing.

MPC was thus pleased to participate as an advisor on the five-year plan, via President MarySue Barrett, and applauds the leadership and vision of Commissioner Jack Markowski.

The final plan, Build Preserve Lead: A Housing Agenda for Chicago's Neighborhoods , incorporates several MPC priorities. Building on the needed attention to expanding and preserving the existing stock of affordable housing, the Plan makes six points that MPC finds particularly encouraging:

  1. The formation of an intergovernmental task force on affordable housing was a courageous and necessary innovation. Clearly, the success of every City issue — education, jobs, health care, safety — depends on the availability of quality, affordable housing for Chicago families, the local workforce, and households with special needs. MPC applauds the City’s decision to improve its coordination and leadership on housing, especially at this time when Gov. Rod Blagojevich is instituting a similar intergovernmental effort for the State of Illinois. 
  2. The five-year plan’s formalization and prioritization of a regional approach is another strategy MPC commends. In recent years, the City has been very supportive of the Housing Agenda of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, and this five-year plan offered the first opportunity to formalize that commitment.
  3. The plan’s bold emphasis on federal and state advocacy to support its goals is also critical, as it not only addresses the obvious need for more resources, but also the more esoteric but potent issues related to regulatory and zoning issues.  
  4. Given the tight resources available, it is also important to note the City's leadership in support of the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation. Certainly, by investing half of the Department of Housing’s multifamily resources in this historic effort, the City is making a difficult decision to temporarily reduce the investments previously made with these funds. Given the impact of this redevelopment on neighborhoods throughout the City and beyond, MPC praises the Department for its leadership in this area. Similarly, the City’s investment in supportive housing as part of this Plan is laudable. Without public support, this is another examples of an essential housing program that the private sector would and could not handle alone.
  5. MPC was also pleased to see an expressed commitment to leveraging more private sector resources. The City’s continued effort to prioritize its resources to address the housing needs of lower-income people will require an increased investment on the part of business leaders who, more and more, are recognizing the costs accrued when housing is not affordable to their own workforces. In the last five-year plan, 18 percent of the Department’s expenditures supported households earning over 80 percent of Area Median Income, an income level common among the local workforce. MPC offers to continue its partnership with the City in expanding employer-assisted housing programs, building on successful initiatives at the University of Chicago, the Illniois Institute of Technology, and Advocate Bethany Hospital
  6. The City's five-year housing plan reflects both a sound understanding of the housing market and a set of clear priorities and goals. Good housing policy and programs cannot be implemented in a vacuum.  MPC was pleased that the department referenced its 1999 Regional Rental Market Analysis, which speaks to the need to update information on regional housing supply and demand in the near future.

No plan is perfect, and good plans must evolve along with the world surrounding them. But, it is essential to articulate goals and commitments up front, as does Build Preserve Lead, to achieve the sort of successes to which the Chicago region has and will continue to aspire. MPC looks forward to helping the City implement this Plan, hopefully surpassing many of the goals stated , as was the case from 1999 to 2003.

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For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

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