Governor releases first ever comprehensive state housing plan - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Governor releases first ever comprehensive state housing plan

After receiving the year-end report from Illinois' Affordable Housing Task Force, the Governor's Office issues "Building for Success: Illinois' Comprehensive Housing Plan."

On Monday, Jan. 24, the Governor's Office issued an advance release of the historic document, "Building for Success:  Illinois' Comprehensive Housing Plan," wrapping up the first year’s work of the Housing Task Force . Building on Gov. Rod Blagojevich's September 2003 "Executive Order to Establish Comprehensive Housing Initiative," the plan kicks-off a multi-year agenda to promote affordability and choice for all Illinois households, create and preserve the state’s supply of affordable and workforce housing, and engage more local and state leaders in advancing housing solutions.

It provides an over-arching message on the value of affordable and workforce housing to communities throughout Illinois, as well as detailed assignments, timelines, and accountability mechanisms for a variety of state departments and other key stakeholders.

The plan bridges the historic divide between the agencies providing capital and service dollars for housing, a problem that has interfered with needed development in recent years, clearly favoring  rent subsidies,  in-home supports and supportive housing over other more institutional environments.

Although "Building for Success" falls short of identifying new resources and incentives for planning, it does strengthen the coordination between the state agencies that plan and fund new development that will impact the housing arena, including the Illinois Department of Transportation and Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. In addition to pursuing these interdepartmental efficiencies, "Building for Success" directs a variety of activities for leveraging the investment of private sector business, financial institutions, and the federal government. It also outlines a number of initiatives to pursue and pilot, such as property tax relief, land trusts and shared-risk property insurance pools.

MPC was well represented on the Task Force, which was chaired by Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) Executive Director Kelly King Dibble, and had ambitious goals for this first comprehensive plan. Our priorities were to (a) identify incentives for municipalities that are forwarding the governor's new housing policy, (b) scale up the state’s employer-assisted housing initiative statewide, (c) promote better regional coordination, best practices, and accountability among public housing authorities, (d) pursue more financial resources for housing, and (e) promote legislation codifying the governor's Executive Order.

While all of these objectives are advanced in "Building for Success," much work remains.  MPC is particularly pleased about the state's increasing embrace of employer-assisted housing, as demonstrated by the IHDA's recent decision to expand MPC's pilot matching fund program statewide. The plan also makes some meaningful steps to engage public housing authorities in state and local planning and production.  Perhaps the single greatest concern about this first comprehensive housing plan is the lack of financial incentives currently available to municipalities working to advance the governor’s housing agenda. The plan offers capacity building assistance, calls for an exploration of such incentives, and outlines a number of areas where this could occur, but it falls short of providing a competitive edge to towns that are helping the state save money and enhance quality of life by linking housing, jobs and transportation. With the governor's leadership and the engagement of appropriate state agencies, as well as the plan’s current goal of codifying the Executive Order in fiscal year 2006, more tangible municipal support is an appropriate next step.

Workforce stability.  Traffic gridlock.  Homelessness.    Segregation.  These are not the kinds of challenges we can tackle in a moment’s time, or with a pithy declaration   Little is more important to families and communities than the quality, location and affordability of their homes.  “Building for Success” is a meaningful work-in-progress, and the State’s leadership is essential if we are to make headway on this most fundamental of issues.

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