Throughout January and February, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) is curating a blog series on vacant properties in metropolitan Chicago. In the coming weeks, MPC's blog, The Connector — as well as the web sites of some of our partners — will feature posts from elected and appointed officials, policy advocates, finance experts, and others about the many ways we are all working together to get a handle on this growing regional and national housing and community development challenge. The opinions expressed in these posts do not necessarily reflect MPC's opinion. Follow the blog series at www.metroplanning.org/vacantproperties.
On Friday, Feb. 3, Gov. Patrick Quinn and the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), in partnership with Cook County, announced the Illinois Building Blocks pilot program, which will package new and existing resources—including the state's Hardest Hit program, the Illinois Foreclosure Prevention Network (also announced last week during the governor's State of the State address on Feb. 1), and a new revolving loan pool—to:
- “help return vacant and foreclosed properties to productive use,
- "provide affordable homeownership opportunities to working families, and
- "help existing homeowners access foreclosure prevention resources.“
MPC is particularly enthusiastic that this pilot is focusing on six communities (Berwyn, Maywood, Park Forest, Riverdale, South Holland and Chicago Heights) within south and west Cook County that are working together, across municipal borders, to strategically tackle the most distressed housing markets in Illinois. With leadership and support from the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (in south Cook) and IFF (in west Cook), these multi-town collaboratives are achieving a greater impact with public funding by focusing on a subregional redevelopment strategy that targets homes near transit and job corridors.
The Illinois Building Blocks Pilot will provide:
- a $50 million revolving loan pool for the acquisition and rehab of vacant and abandoned buildings;
- $5 million in assistance for homeowners to purchase vacant properties ($10,000 for downpayment and closing cost assistance for up to 500 homebuyers);
- and free one-on-one foreclosure counseling, loan modifications, and access to financial assistance to homeowners who have trouble paying their mortgage payments due to unemployment or under-employment.
What's more, through the Illinois Building Blocks pilot, the state and county are making further strides to embrace strategic, coordinated development. Not only does the program provide comprehensive foreclosure response resources for prevention, rehab, and resale, but it is being rolled out in neighboring communities that are already working together through the collaboratives. In turn, these communities and the multi-town collaboratives they are apart of are aligning housing, land-use and transportation policies to achieve more bang for their buck.
This multi-town approach to planning and development—known as interjurisdictional collaboration—has been steadily gaining ground in Illinois over the past two years, thanks to the Regional Home Ownership Preservation Initiative, recommendations of the State Linkage Group, new priorities indentified by the Illinois' 2012 Annual Comprehensive Housing Plan, and Cook County`s latest Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning’s GOTO 2040 plan for northeastern Illinois and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Housing and Community Development Action Agenda also cite interjurisdictional collaboration as a preferred strategy.
Why all this attention to the collaboratives? Each collaborative has been able to hire a coordinator, increasing all participating communities' knowledge of local, state and federal resources, as well as their capacity to apply for competitive public funding. By working together, neighboring communities have been able to identify strategic opportunities for comprehensive redevelopment that will make a real difference in their part of the region. And together, the Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative and West Cook County Housing Collaborative have attracted approximately $30 million in competitive housing resources since establishing their multi-town efforts in 2009. This includes federal and county dollars, Illinois CDBG Disaster Recovery (“IKE”) resources for redevelopment through the Ill. Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and IHDA support for Homes for a Changing Region, a technical assistance initiative that helps these collaboratives and individual communities plan for the types of housing they will need to serve their current and future residents.
With the Illinois Building Blocks pilot program, Gov. Quinn, IHDA and Cook County are recognizing that this collaborative approach is saving taxpayers money, making regionally significant investments, and attracting private investment – and that these communities and their residents should be rewarded with additional support. We couldn't agree more, and look forward to working with them to help make the most of this latest opportunity.