Letter to the Editor: Illinois’ first comprehensive housing plan - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Letter to the Editor: Illinois’ first comprehensive housing plan

Workforce stability. Traffic gridlock. Homelessness. Segregation. These are not the kinds of challenges we can tackle in a moment’s time, or with a pithy declaration. With his historic release of "Building for Success: Illinois' Comprehensive Housing Plan," Gov. Rod Blagojevich wraps up the first year's work of his Housing Task Force and demonstrates how the state could pursue a more equitable distribution of quality affordable housing options near jobs, transportation and other amenities.

Housing policies are almost exclusively determined by mayors and volunteer commissioners serving Illinois ’ 1,290 municipalities. In recent years, frustrated by vexing growth and development challenges, mayors and other stakeholders have increasingly turned to the state for guidance and support.

Building on the housing policy articulated in his Sept. 2003 Executive Order, the governor’s plan kicks-off a multi-year agenda to promote affordability and choice for all Illinois households, create and preserve the state's supply of affordable and workforce housing, and engage more local and state leaders in advancing housing solutions.

With the leadership of Kelly King Dibble, executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority – and the input of hundreds of industry leaders, advocates, academics, and policymakers – the plan provides an over-arching message that affordable and workforce housing are important to communities throughout the state. Perhaps more salient, the plan is not destined to go up on a shelf; it provides detailed assignments, timelines, and accountability mechanisms.

By requiring interdepartmental efficiencies, “Building for Success” bridges the historic divide between the state agencies providing capital and service dollars for housing, a bureaucratic problem that has frustrated developers and left too many families literally out in the cold. The governor’s plan clearly favors rent subsidies, in-home supports, and supportive housing over institutional environments. It also outlines a number of initiatives to pursue and pilot, including land trusts and shared-risk property insurance pools. To achieve these goals, the governor’s plan sets forth a variety of activities for leveraging private sector investment and untapped federal funds.

The Metropolitan Planning Council is particularly pleased about the state's embrace of employer-assisted housing, as demonstrated by its recent decision to expand statewide incentives for business leaders investing in housing for a competitive workforce. This is one incentive to encourage municipalities to work to advance the governor's housing agenda and serve their residents’ housing needs. The plan’s offer of capacity building assistance is another. But more is needed. The next step should be to provide a competitive edge for transportation and economic development dollars to towns that are helping the state save money and enhance quality of life by linking housing, jobs and transportation.

Little is more important to our families and communities than the quality, location and affordability of their homes. “Building for Success” is a meaningful work-in-progress, and this administration deserves kudos for assuming leadership on this most fundamental of issues.

Robin Snyderman,

Housing Director,

Metropolitan Planning Council;


Illinois Housing Task Force



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