April Media Tips - Metropolitan Planning Council

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April Media Tips

Ill.’s Capital Needs? $9B. Knowing the Money Will Be Spent Wisely? Priceless

The Illinois Works Coalition is headed to metropolitan Chicago to get the public’s take on how Illinois should fund a long-overdue state capital plan to build and maintain roads, bridges, transit, schools and housing. MPC will provide the coalition with funding recommendations– and a proposal for how Illinois can ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely on capital needs.

It may seem hard to believe, but Illinois does not have a process for rating all transportation projects to determine which make the best use of taxpayers’ dollars. Such a process is sorely needed, if for no other reason than that the state does not have enough money to fund all of the projects on its wish list. According to a 2007 study by the American Economics Group, Illinois has almost $9 billion in surface transportation capital needs per year over the next five years; however, only $2 billion a year is spent for surface transportation projects.

The Illinois Works Coalition – named for the governor’s proposed capital plan – has been touring the state since February, led by Southern Illinois University President and former congressman Glenn Poshard, and former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert. In a recent article in the Southern Illinoisan , Poshard was quoted as stating, “If we want a capital bill, then somebody’s got to say, ‘Here are the tough choices and here’s what we recommend.’” MPC couldn’t agree more and will only support a capital investment package with an objective, criteria-driven system for making those difficult, but necessary decisions about which Illinois transportation projects deserve taxpayer dollars.

The Illinois Works Coalition will host a listening session in Geneva , Ill. , on Monday, April 28, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. For more information, visit the Illinois Works Coalition Web site, or contact Michael McLaughlin, MPC Director of Regional Policy & Transportation, at 312-863-6022 or mmclaughlin@metroplanning.org .

Near West Communities Invited to Help Plan Retail, Transportation Access

The Near West Task Force of Reconnecting Neighborhoods, a community planning process that will result in recommendations for enhanced transit services, retail, and improved public infrastructure in three Chicago neighborhoods, invites Near West Side community members to a public meeting on Monday, April 28 , from 5:30 to 7 p.m., at the “Major” Adams Community Committee Center, 125 N. Hoyne Ave., Chicago, to learn more about transportation and retail amenities in and around the Westhaven Park neighborhood, and to voice their opinions about how to make their neighborhood more convenient and vibrant.

The project is being led by the City of Chicago Dept. of Planning and Development, with support from the Regional Transportation Authority, MPC, and HNTB, a firm handling the project’s technical work and research. For more information, visit the Reconnecting Neighborhoods Web site, or contact MPC Reconnecting Neighborhoods Manager Brandon Johnson, 312-863-6046 or bjohnson@metroplanning.org .

Suburban Mayors Exploring Potential for Joint Affordable Housing Trust Fund

At a recent City Council meeting, the City of Lake Forest gave Mayor Mike Rummel the go-ahead to explore the creation of a joint affordable housing trust fund with the four neighboring towns of Deerfield, Highland Park , Highwood, and Northbrook. The proposal also was discussed at a recent Northbrook City Council meeting; and is up for consideration by Highland Park’s City Council on Monday, May 12 , and by the other cities in the coming weeks. Mayors of Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Palatine and Rolling Meadows are leading a similar effort. While the concept is in its infancy in Illinois, Lake Forest's City Council is enthusiastic about the potential benefits of the ARCH (A Regional Coalition for Housing) model, which in Washington state has created a partnership between 15 communities ensuring all of them have the staff capacity and funding needed to build and preserve workforce housing.

With gas prices and foreclosure rates skyrocketing, and poverty on the rise in suburban Chicago (as evidenced by a recent Heartland Alliance report), local leaders are recognizing they can relieve some of the economic burden on families by ensuring a range of homes at all price points are available, particularly in job-rich and transit-friendly communities. Mayors from the north and northwest suburbs have already seen the benefits of working collectively to solve local workforce housing shortages through the Charter One Workforce Housing Initiative, which is engaging employers in these towns in investing in employer-assisted housing and other workforce housing solutions. An interjurisdictional affordable housing trust fund could be the next step to helping even more people save money on housing, gas and other rapidly rising costs in metropolitan Chicago. For more information, contact MPC Vice President of Community Development Robin Snyderman, at 312-863-6007, or rsnyderman@metroplanning.org .

CPS Homebuyer Assistance Helps Chicago Teachers Defy Weak Housing Market

As foreclosure rates reach all-time highs in Chicago and across the U.S., the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Teacher Homebuyer Assistance Program is helping hundreds of teachers afford homes and avoid common pitfalls that can lead to foreclosure. CPS has confirmed that, despite the local and national downturn in the housing market, the number of teachers who have purchased homes through the program remained consistent in 2006 and 2007.

With support from the City of Chicago’s Dept. of Housing, and Partnership for New Communities, the program helps teachers become stable homebuyers to achieve its main goal of improving teacher retention. According to CPS Teacher Housing Director Diana Johnson, “When launching this program in April of 2005, the Board of Education had found that if we could bridge teachers through their fifth year at CPS, then we’d have likely secured a career teacher.”

To date, the program, available to some 24,400 teachers system wide, has helped 524 teachers better prepare for homeownership through downpayment assistance and homeownership counseling provided by Rogers Park Community Development Corporation (CDC). Consistent with the broader REACH Illinois employer-assisted housing initiative, this counseling “ensures that teachers not only understand the [homebuying] process, but also know how to protect themselves and their investment once they make a purchase,” according to Caleb Sjoblom of Rogers Park CDC.

For more information on the CPS Teacher Homebuyer Assistance Program, or other REACH Illinois Employer-Assisted Housing (EAH) programs like it, please contact Jane Hornstein, MPC EAH consultant, at jhornstein@metroplanning.org or 312.863.6040.

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