One of America’s most comprehensive reports on permanent supportive housing (PSH) was recently released by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), together with a lengthy series of recommendations to expand PSH in our state.
Metropolitan Planning Council played an active role in creating the report. In the summer and fall of 2015 a MPC research team intensively reviewed the state of PSH in Illinois and, at year end, issued a monograph titled “Permanent Supportive Housing: An Analysis of Illinois, 2015 and Beyond.” The monograph charted existing PSH demand and supply, identified barriers to PSH and then laid out a realistic five-year plan to expand PSH in the State.
MPC report then provided the base document for a fifty plus-member IHDA Supportive Housing Working Group which met throughout 2016. The Working Group included a wide range of experts on homelessness, supportive housing and supportive housing services. The Group amplified, edited and added to the MPC report.
What key facts did the Working Group report present?
There’s a need for more permanent supportive housing. Despite 18,000 PSH units in Illinois, there is an unmet need for 23,00 additional PSH units. Given current funding and resource availability, Illinois has the ability to make available an additional 13,300 PSH units over the next five years. These include 4,600 new units and 8,700 “turnover” units, PSH units that will be vacated by current occupants.
PSH is cost effective. Providing a new PSH unit can cost as much as $27,600 but the average is closer to $20,000. The cost includes housing/development cost, operating cost and supportive service cost. PSH is a much more cost-effective solution than current alternatives including:
- Institutional care in a mental hospital – nearly $40,000
- Nursing home care - $52,000
- Prison - $38,000
- Intermediate care for those with developmental disabilities - $54,000
- Chronic homelessness - $15,000 to $30,000
The benefits of PSH go beyond cost. From a quality-of-life perspective, PSH is superior to the alternatives mentioned above because it provides an individual with control over his or her life as well as personal privacy; encourages individual responsibility, the responsibility that comes with paying rent and maintaining one’s home and lifestyle; and gives an individual more flexibility in terms of deciding how to budget his or her time.
Additional funding for PSH is clearly warranted but will be determined by the willingness of both the federal and State government to commit more resources to PSH construction and services either directly or via the expansion of programs like Medicaid.
The IHDA Supportive Housing Working Group also identified specific non-financial action steps which can be taken to expand permanent supportive housing, steps which include:
- Proactively preserving existing PSH by focusing on government-financed multi-family buildings nearing the end of their affordability period
- Enhancing data bases which identify available PSH units, especially PSH units which are fully accessible to people with disabilities
- Exploring the use of scattered-site PSH housing
- Working with landlords to expand the number of buildings which will accept PSH units
- Carefully studying the current systems to provide housing for those re-entering society from prison
- Creating a more formalized reasonable accommodation process.
MPC pushes for the expansion of permanent supportive housing in Illinois. We are collaborating with the Illinois Justice Project on a detailed study prisoner re-entry programs, a study which should be published in the first half of 2018.
 There are exceptional cases where the cost is greater for individuals with very special needs.