Governor signs bill providing incentives for school districts in communities that welcome affordable homes - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Governor signs bill providing incentives for school districts in communities that welcome affordable homes

Good Housing Good Schools (SB 220) removes obstacles to developing affordable homes in desirable communities, and supports quality local schools

(Chicago) …Even as home prices are falling, many working families in the Chicago region still struggle to find reasonably priced homes in neighborhoods with good schools. To promote the development of more affordable homes in desirable communities near jobs, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich recently signed the Good Housing Good Schools bill (SB 220), developed and supported by the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC).

Good Housing Good Schools gives a financial incentive to school districts in towns that approve new or renovated multifamily housing developments affordable to working families. The school funding bonus for eligible developments will be $1,120 for each two-bedroom unit, plus $560 for each additional bedroom. For example, a town that approves a building with 45 affordable two and three-bedroom units would generate over $60,000 for the school district – enough to hire an extra teacher.

“No Illinois family should have to choose between living in a quality home within their budget or sending their child to a decent school,” said Sen. Iris Y. Martinez (D-Chicago), a lead sponsor of the bill. “Far too many communities in Illinois have either a healthy supply of affordable homes or good schools – not both. Good Housing Good Schools will help preserve and spur the creation of more communities in Illinois with quality, affordable homes and good schools that have the resources they need to educate our children.”

Indeed, as long as Illinois continues to rely on local resources to fund public schools, there will be an imbalance. This bill addresses the disparity, and furthers the goals of the Illinois Comprehensive Housing Plan, the state’s first housing policy, approved in 2005. The multi-year plan identifies specific actions needed to increase affordability and choice for all Illinois families, create and preserve the state’s supply of affordable and workforce housing, and engage more local and state leaders in solving the affordable housing crunch.

The idea for Good Housing Good Schools surfaced as mayors, developers and MPC put their heads together to explore ways the state could support on-the-ground efforts.

“While the state has done much to accomplish the Comprehensive Housing Plan’s goals, there’s no question that the demand for reasonably priced homes in good neighborhoods is growing,” said Rep. Karen Yarbrough (D-Maywood), a lead sponsor of the bill. “More incentives are needed to quicken the pace of development. Good Housing Good Schools is one way the state can encourage local leaders to approve workforce housing developments that meet this need.”

Yarbrough added that Good Housing Good Schools benefits a variety of constituents:

  • Students and school districts: School districts will receive additional financial support contributing to a quality education for all students in all neighborhoods.
  • Local employers: An increase in affordable and workforce housing in communities across Illinois will benefit employers statewide, as they rely upon an accessible workforce to keep their businesses running.
  • Local, regional and state governments: SB 220 supports two basic building blocks of healthy communities: quality schools and a mix of housing.

Good Housing Good Schools is modeled on similar legislation in Massachusetts. Illinois’ bill aligns its goals with those of this state’s Comprehensive Housing and Planning Act by rewarding school districts in municipalities that approve rehabilitated or new homes that meet “live-near-work” and housing preservation goals. Eligible homes must provide for long-term affordability, cannot be age-restricted, and must not be detached, single-family houses. All multifamily housing applications received by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) from a developer or municipality automatically will be considered for the school funding bonus. In transactions not seeking IHDA assistance, the municipality, school district, or developer can apply to IHDA.

Based on these criteria, in 2006 in Illinois, fewer than 1,200 new homes were developed that would have qualified for this incentive; the estimated cost to the state would have been just $1.5 million. However, it’s notable that since Massachusetts’ school bonus went into effect less than two years ago, zoning as been approved to allow – as of right – over 5,800 new housing opportunities. Angus Jennings, of Concord Square Development Company, Inc., in Massachusetts, explains that “the change that we’ve seen in communities has been dramatic. This incentive has breathed new life into suburban downtowns and other locations. There’s much more energy now focused on how to get the job done right through quality design to ensure that new development – and renovation of older buildings – is a net plus for the community.”

This is precisely the sort of information that MPC will deploy as the Council moves into the next phase of negotiations: While the bill was approved in the recently completed legislative session, an appropriation was not. MPC will work closely with the governor’s office and the leaders of IHDA and the Illinois State Board of Education to identify resources for the next fiscal year.

“A major emphasis of the Illinois Comprehensive Housing Plan is the recognition that housing is an essential component of the state’s economy, a community’s balance, a family’s stability, and a child’s education,” said MPC Housing Director Robin Snyderman. “Good Housing Good Schools is a sensible bill with a reasonable price tag that benefits all of these groups.”

For a detailed description of Good Housing Good Schools, visit MPC’s Web site.

For comment from the Metropolitan Planning Council, please contact Mandy Burrell, communications associate, at 312-863-6018 (office), 773-640-1206 (cell), or mburrell@metroplanning.org ; or Robin Snyderman, housing director, at 312-863-6007 or rsnyderman@metroplanning.org

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