In October 2003, Metropolitan Planning Council President MarySue Barrett sent a letter to Illinois' U.S. Senators urging support for full funding of the Housing Choice Voucher program in FY 2004.
The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is deeply concerned about the funding hurdles that the Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) program has been facing throughout the FY 2004 Appropriations process. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the FY 2004 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Appropriations bill proposed by the House will likely leave the HCV Program $433 million short of what is needed to fund all vouchers currently in use. This cut translates into an estimated loss of 63,000 rent vouchers throughout the country. Recently, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed its bill requiring HUD to use unspent funds from past years to fully fund the program, yet, proposed a lower funding level than the House bill.
In the next weeks, the Veterans Administration-HUD Appropriations bill will be considered by the full Senate first, and then by a House-Senate conference committee. Your leadership is key in both steps of the process, in order to ensure that the final bill emerging from the conference keeps language ensuring full funding of the voucher program.
As you know, the Chicago region is experiencing a dramatic affordable housing crisis. In the last decade, this six-county region grew by 11 percent in population and 16 percent in jobs, but lost more than 28,000 apartments. According to a 2003 study by the Center for Regional Employment Strategies, rental vacancy rates within five miles of job centers are 28 percent tighter than in the Chicago region at large, with median rental rates $100 a month higher. And, barriers to housing near jobs for minorities are significant, with 75 percent of households living within those five miles being white, compared with a 57 percent overall white population. Demand for affordable rental housing is great in both the city and the suburbs, among both the general population and groups like those leaving welfare. Cuts in the HCV program will gravely harm many of the approximately 50,000 families who depend on housing vouchers to pay their monthly rents in the Chicago metropolitan area.
A few weeks ago, Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the Comprehensive Housing Initiative, an executive order that hopes to begin to address this grave housing situation. Earlier this year, aware of the key role that the HCV program plays in guaranteeing affordable housing to low-income families, Gov. Blagojevich signed the Housing Opportunity Tax Incentive Act, which gave tax incentives to landlords accepting HCV holders in low-poverty areas.
Since 1934, MPC has been committed to improving housing conditions in the Chicago region. One of our key objectives is to support HCV program administration both at the city and the regional levels. In Chicago, MPC has commissioned research and developed policy guidelines to improve the conditions of the thousands of families who are moving out of public housing using HCVs while their homes are being redeveloped as part of the Chicago Housing Authority Plan for Transformation. From a regional perspective, MPC has successfully launched the Regional Housing Initiative, a collaborative effort involving the Illinois Housing Development Authority and three public housing authorities (Chicago, Cook, and Lake), which aims to convert 328 unused HCVs into a funding pool for developing more affordable housing. These are only two examples of our work in the housing field. Click here for more information.
We urge you to use your leadership to support the allocation of additional funding to the HCV bill, in order to sustain all vouchers currently in use.
We would be grateful for your leadership in this effort. By supporting the HCV program you will be playing a decisive role in securing the homes and the futures of tens of thousands of families in the Chicago region.
Thank you in advance for your leadership and commitment.
MarySue Barrett, President