Local efforts aim to bridge the best of both worlds - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Local efforts aim to bridge the best of both worlds

Growing numbers of mayors are working across boundaries to meet local housing needs.

In current marketplace, where innovation and efficiency around housing solutions are needed more than ever, MPC is particularly encouraged about an emerging interest among municipal leaders in working across boundaries. Since 2001, when MPC first worked with the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus to form its Housing Committee, the Caucus and regional allies have made tremendous headway advancing local housing solutions that support the Mayors Caucus Housing Endorsement Criteria. Founding Housing Committee members such as St. Charles, Riverdale, and Arlington Heights have been among the many communities championing successful new housing programs and developments, as have newer leaders such as Lake Forest and Rolling Meadows . The Caucus Housing Committee has developed numerous tools and seminars to supplement the learning that takes place at its bimonthly gatherings.

One of the committee’s more recent strategies is to pursue inter-jurisdictional solutions. Highland Park , a town that has long champion ed affordable and workforce housing solutions , was the first to spearhead a discussion on aligning housing efforts with its neighbor s Deerfied, Highwood, Lake Forest, and Northbrook .

Similarly, two of the founding members of the MMC Housing Committee -- Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder and Palatine Mayor Rita Mullins -- catalyzed an inter-jurisdictional housing discussion in the northwest . Mayor Mullins pointed out: “Ironically, housing advocates and policymakers are starting to get what we’ve been asking for – and it’s not pretty. We have towns that have never embraced affordable or workforce housing requiring homebuilders who have never built or financed affordable or workforce housing trying to make things work . The truth is this: We are never going to see the day where all 270+ towns in our region have the capacity to design and implement their own ordinances, trust funds, and programs.”

Two existing models have provided inspiration for local leaders: One is in suburban Seattle , where more than a dozen communities are sharing staff and pooling resources as part of a joint Housing Trust Fund. The other, which also has a well-endowed Housing Trust Fund, is in Silicon Valley. What's noteworthy about the California example is that, initially, it was largely funded by area employers. As such, local efforts aim to bridge the best of both worlds: strengthening coordination across boundaries and with employers currently or potentially involved in employer-assisted housing .

The first joint effort in both the northern and the northwest suburbs included joint outreach to area employers, but current discussions look at more aggressive strategies such as joint housing trust funds and joint housing land trusts.

Still a work in progress, municipal leadership is already cataly zing similar efforts in other parts of the region. MPC and the Mayors Caucus are eager to tap this interest to spur new, more efficient ways of advancing housing solutions in metropolitan Chicago . For more information, including emerging incentive s for inter-jurisdictional coordination, please call Robin Snyderman , VP of Community Development, at (312) 863-6007 or rsnyderman@metroplanning.org.

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