“Building for Success: Illinois’ Comprehensive Housing Plan” Roundtable - Metropolitan Planning Council

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“Building for Success: Illinois’ Comprehensive Housing Plan” Roundtable

Metropolitan Planning Council’s March 14 Housing Roundtable focused on familiarizing people with Illinois' first-ever comprehensive housing plan, as well as its implications “on the ground.”

Metropolitan Planning Council’s March 14 Housing Roundtable focused on Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's first ever comprehensive housing plan , which wraps up the first year’s work of the state's Housing Task Force. The primary goal of the Roundtable was to familiarize people with the plan itself as well as its implications “on the ground.”

Moderated by MPC Vice Chair King Harris, senior executive of Chicago Metropolis 2020 , the panel also featured Joyce Probst, senior policy development advisor to the governor for housing; State Senator Iris Y. Martinez (D-20th Dist.); and Jean Butzen, president and CEO of Lakefront Supportive Housing . The roundtable drew more than 110 attendees, including city and suburban policymakers, advocates, developers, investors and business leaders.

After an introduction from MPC Housing Director Robin Snyderman, who walked people through the activities that resulted in this plan and discussed next steps, Joyce Probst reminded people about the priorities of the plan as set forth in the Governor’s Executive Order: to serve very low-income households and families; senior citizens; those with disabilities; people struggling with homelessness; low- and moderate-income households unable to afford housing near work or transportation; and/or those living in affordable housing that is at risk of becoming unaffordable. Focusing on coordination of housing assistance programs, agencies and allocation of funds, Probst explained that Illinois’ Comprehensive Housing Plan was guided by three principles identified by the Housing Task Force: affordability and choice, creation and preservation, and leadership. Most of all, Probst stressed that the plan will only be as meaningful as it is utilized, and she urged those present to participate in advancing the goals and plans outlined.

Probst outlined the central role the  Illinois Housing Development Authority plays in coordinating state investment and providing capital dollars, noting that these dollars need to support and leverage investments by local communities and the private sector. The Plan encourages municipalities to develop local comprehensive housing plans for maximum impact, and urges greater state coordination both of social service and infrastructure dollars. Moreover, the Plan outlines activities and assignments well beyond 2005, including ongoing planning through 2007.

To view Joyce Probst’s PowerPoint presentation, click here .

Sen. Martinez applauded the elevated state attention on housing and pointed to legislation passed in 2002 and 2003 that also advanced the Plan's goals around intergovernmental coordination, supporting local communities, and leveraging private sector dollars. The Local Planning Technical Assistance Act (Public Act 92-0768) is still unfunded and not utilized, and the Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credit (IAHTC) is scheduled to “sunset” and needs renewal. With this Administration, the legislature has been able to pass three other key housing bills: the Federally Subsidized Housing Preservation Act (SB 2329), Housing Opportunity Tax Incentive Act (HB 2246), and the Affordable Housing and Planning Appeals Act (HB 625) .

Looking ahead, there are four pieces of legislation in the pipeline that, if passed, could strengthen the implementation of the plan, and, more broadly, Illinois affordable housing base:

  • Extension of IAHTC (HB 0603)
  • With half of Illinois renters unable to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the state’s average Fair Market Rate, the Rental Housing Support Program Act (HB 0490/SB 0075) would create $30 million annually to ensure rental affordability for over 5,000 families earning below 30 percent AMI
  • With more than 400,000 Illinois households relying on some form of non-wage housing (including rent subsidies, SSI, SSD, TANF, and child support), the Illinois Human Rights Act Source of Income Amendment (SB 167)  would protect these households from discrimination based on their legal form of income.
  • Advancing a key piece of the Local Planning Technical Assistance Act,Location Matters (HB 3767)  would provide state economic development incentive via the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity to employers supporting the housing affordability and/or public transit accessibility of their workforce.

Sen. Martinez further recommended the legislature act swiftly to codify the Executive Order and to enact a Comprehensive Housing Plan "which outlives all of us." Such legislation would take the state's housing plan a few steps further, formalizing interdepartmental cooperation and resource allocation to meaningfully influence the housing market, leveraging and aligning private sector investment in coordination with the state’s housing agenda, and providing meaningful incentives from IDOT, DCEO and other key agencies to municipalities advancing the state’s housing goals. The Senator concluded her remarks with a reminder that all of our work at the state level will be for naught if the federal housing budget reduces precious CDBG, HOPE VI and HCV resources as anticipated. To the contrary, we need to expand housing resources at the national level. Sen. Martinez further acknowledged that there's also a role for national policymakers in advancing employer-assisted housing and looking at other ways to reduce regulatory barriers preventing affordable housing near jobs and transportation.

To view Sen. Martinez’ PowerPoint presentation, click here .

Jean Butzen focused on the implications of this plan for formerly homeless and special needs populations, and the housing developers and service providers working to provide suitable housing options. Noting the dismal activity taking place at the federal level, she expressed gratitude for the state and city leadership on this issue, as exemplified by this new housing plan, the three consecutive five-year plans of the City of Chicago’s Department of Housing , and Mayor Daley’s approval of the 10-year plan to end homelessness.

She stressed that supportive housing faces unique challenges in that it has to produce permanent affordable housing with on-site services. Toward that end, supportive housing developers need (a) debt-free capital to buy and develop real estate, (b) rental subsidies to cover the operating costs beyond what residents can afford, and (c) social service dollars.

In the past, gathering these three funding sources meant six to eight layers of capital, two to three forms of rental subsidy, and a hodge podge of social service funding. Historically, Butzen pointed out, “the problem has been that service dollars could not be committed at the same time as capital and rental subsidy.” The comprehensive housing plan suggests major improvements on this front, via the coordination of different types of funding, including 15 government agencies that have budget lines for affordable housing subsidies, services and/or development. In addressing affordable housing needs, Butzen suggested that the state of Illinois should act as family, surrounding people in need with the support necessary. For that purpose, bureaucracy and time should be coordinated, and the state should be accountable. It is necessary to gain greater flexibilities and recognize the multitude of ways to serve people. Butzen praised the state for the new interdepartmental committees formed to advance housing but warned that civic involvement is still essential. Butzen also urged the state to lobby the federal government not to cut dollars for affordable housing.

King Harris concluded the discussion by emphasizing that the impact of the Illinois housing plan is still modest. “In order for the affordable housing to keep even for 25 years, we need 9,600 to 12,000 new affordable units per year,” he said. The comprehensive plan includes preserving the existing supply, but more is needed. In 2003, the Federal HOME and CDBG produced 1,000 new affordable units and rehabbed 8,000 units -- still not enough to keep up with the demands. Renewal of the Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credit Act is very important to ensure that companies are involved in affordable housing production. With fiscal problems on both the federal and state levels, municipalities need active state support to build affordable housing, even without federal dollars. Integrative planning is central in the aim for good outcomes and savings.

Questions around the Illinois’ Comprehensive Housing Plan touched on the issue of funding and property tax problems. The discussion made clear that there is no added money with the plan, but the new efficiencies will increase the impact of the $600 million budgeted by the state for affordable housing and related services each year.

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