Highwood puts a face on the affordable and workforce housing crunch with program airing in September - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Highwood puts a face on the affordable and workforce housing crunch with program airing in September

Program provides regional context for Highwood’s efforts to preserve housing options

(Highwood, Ill.)….. Across the region, key working professionals such as teachers, nurses and firefighters increasingly are unable to afford homes in the communities where they work. The disparity is forcing workers to endure “extreme” commutes from areas where the housing is not expensive but where jobs are scarce, putting a strain on families, leading to unnecessary turnover at local businesses, and causing unprecedented traffic congestion for everyone on the roads. To call attention to the growing mismatch between where good jobs are available and where people can afford to live, on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. throughout September, Highwood TV-Channel 19 in Highwood will air Welcome Home: Housing Our Community , a program that takes a closer look at the need for workforce and affordable housing in all communities in northeastern Illinois.

As of the 2000 census, Highwood boasted a housing stock that was 28 percent affordable overall, a rare asset on the North Shore. However, housing costs already have escalated to a point of pricing many working families out of Highwood, and development pressures are threatening to significantly reduce the availability of affordable for-sale and rental homes in Highwood. One analysis suggests that the percentage of affordable homes in the city could plummet to as low as 16 percent within the next few years.

To ensure that Highwood continues to serve and attract residents with a range of incomes, city leaders are developing strategies to improve their existing affordable stock and spur new investments that provide quality housing options for both buyers and renters alike.

Highwood Ald. Margaret Ronzani recently said, “As an alderman in Highwood, and a member of our Housing Committee, I am working with my peers to explore policies and programs that enable us to preserve and expand such opportunities. It troubles me, for example, that we have teachers who have to commute 60 minutes each day to school because they can’t afford to live in the quality district where they teach. This is as much a disservice for the kids in our schools as it is for the teachers’ own families.”

Welcome Home – created by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), a regional nonprofit planning and advocacy group, and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, an organization comprised of mayors of all 272 municipalities across the region, and produced by Chicago Video Project – brings together mayors, developers and residents from across Chicagoland to talk about why all communities need housing affordable to the local workforce. The program also reveals innovative approaches local communities are taking to create and preserve homes that both serve the needs of the local workforce and fit the character of their neighborhoods.

“Local leaders across the region recognize the need for more workforce and affordable housing, and many are taking steps to expand housing options for the people who live and work in their communities,” said Joanna Trotter, manager of the Metropolitan Planning Council’s Community Building Initiative. “City leaders in Highwood have been working with us and with our task force of real estate, finance, communications, and housing experts to develop strategies to create and preserve housing at a range of prices because they recognize the importance of providing homes for the local workforce.”

Preview a trailer of the 12-minute program, narrated by longtime Chicago TV news anchor and journalist Bill Kurtis, on the MPC Web site. For more information about Welcome Home, contact Mandy Burrell, MPC communications associate, at 312-863-6018 or mburrell@metroplanning.org .

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