2021 Policy Priorities - Metropolitan Planning Council

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2021 Policy Priorities

Our recommendations for federal, state, and local policy change

2021 State Policy Agenda

The Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) works with governments, businesses, and advocacy groups to promote racially equitable and environmentally sustainable planning and policy solutions that build a better, bolder, more equitable future for everyone.  

As we enter 2021, we inherit urgent problems with longstanding structural roots. Spiking unemployment, faltering transit agencies, hundreds of thousands of Illinois residents brought to the brink of eviction or foreclosure – these immediate crises will linger with us for years to come. Each are manifestations of familiar failures of our contemporary world rooted in systemic racism: decades of disinvestment in Black and Latinx communities, under-funding of critical infrastructure that protects the health of our most vulnerable residents, and an ongoing failure to meet the housing needs of low-income residents. While we urge investing in the immediate needs, MPC advocates for thoughtful planning to address these problems at their roots.

We support policies, programs, narrative change, and budgets that lead to just, sustainable, equitable outcomes for all residents.


Illinois has over 450,000 extremely low income households, but there are only 161,000 affordable housing units available. Additionally, the pressures of development and gentrification are reducing the supply of affordable housing in neighborhoods that are presently affordable. The economic devastation wrought by COVID-19 has brought these stressors to a boiling point, with hundreds of thousands of Illinois households behind on rent and mortgage payments. MPC supports policies that enhance housing affordability, stability, and safety.

Expand affordable housing supply through preservation strategies and new production.

  • Preserve existing affordability and produce new affordable housing through property tax incentives (HB805 Tarver/SB330 Feigenholtz). Financial incentives are a powerful tool for  building owners and developers to voluntarily produce or preserve affordable housing. Building on the proven framework of Cook County property tax incentives, MPC supports state legislation that will reduce property taxes for new housing construction or substantial rehabilitation projects that include 15 percent or more affordable units.

Protect vulnerable residents—especially those leaving the justice system—so they can access and remain in stable housing.

  • Provide eviction and foreclosure relief (HB2877 Ramirez). Since March 2020, 17.8 percent of renter households and 8.5 percent of homeowners in Illinois have fallen behind on their monthly payments. While several rounds of federal cash stimulus and housing payments have helped to forestall the coming tide of evictions and foreclosures, this aid will not be enough for some residents. MPC supports a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures and the automatic sealing of eviction files until the bulk of the damage of COVID-19 is contained.

  • Make housing accessible to people with arrest and conviction records. People leaving the criminal legal system face numerous permanent punishments after arrest, conviction, and incarceration. Finding stable housing is typically the most significant barrier. Returning residents face the stigma of “criminal history” as they search for stable places to live, and are often met with landlords unwilling to rent. This stigma persists despite the fact that in Illinois 42 percent of adults have an arrest or conviction record. MPC supports policies that center the housing needs of those with a criminal record, including removing onerous registration requirements and funding supportive services.


Our region is the transportation hub of the nation. The Chicago area has the second largest transit system in the country. However, we are in a period of rapid change in modes of travel, and COVID-19 has decimated the ridership and revenues that undergird our transit systems.  It’s more critical than ever to stay focused on the outcomes we want our transportation system to provide and to ensure equitable funding of the most sustainable modes. 

Develop and implement a multimodal, data-informed, and equitable approach to transportation investment.

  • Institutionalize performance-based planning (HB253 Buckner/SB2475 Villivalam). Illinois residents deserve to have transportation infrastructure investment priorities guided by transparent, data-informed methods. MPC supports requiring the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Regional Transportation Authority to develop comprehensive, equitable, and transparent criteria for transportation project selection. We need to be clear about how billions of Rebuild Illinois and federal transportation dollars are being used to achieve the transportation, environmental, and equity outcomes Illinois residents deserve.

Equitably fund all modes of transportation now and into the future.

  • Eliminate IDOT’s local match requirement for pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure (HB270 Moeller). Under current State of Illinois guidelines, local municipalities are required to contribute 20 percent of the cost of building sidewalks and side paths for walking/biking along IDOT-managed roads. MPC supports removal of this local match requirement.

Increase the safety of our roads, particularly for pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • Enable communities to lower speed limits to improve safety. High speeds on streets and highways are at odds with the safety of both bicyclists and pedestrians. State law currently prevents Chicago and other cities from lowering the speed limit on any street unless they post signs on any street that departs from the default limit. MPC supports legislation to solve this problem by enabling all municipalities to reduce default speed limits. 

Water Resources

The COVID-19 pandemic has crystalized that water is a basic human right, essential to good health. But not all Illinois residents have reliable access to safe and affordable drinking water. Conversely, some residents have far too much water in the form of flooding that destroys homes and ecosystems, and threatens public health. MPC works to ensure equitable access to safe, sustainable, and affordable drinking water and flooding protection. The long-term viability of our water infrastructure, coordinated intergovernmental solutions, and planning for resilience in the face of climate change are all urgent needs.

Protect the health of Illinois residents by ensuring reliable, safe water.

  • Enable statewide lead service line replacement (HB3739 Robinson/SB 556 Bush). There is no safe level of lead exposure. Exposure can cause behavior problems and learning disabilities in young children, and also affects the health of adults. Illinois needs an adequately funded statewide commitment to eliminate its 680,000-plus lead service lines from our drinking water supply. As a member of the Illinois Environmental Council, MPC is advancing a bill that provides a timeline, structure, and revenue source for lead service line replacement.

Increase drinking water affordability, equitable rate setting, and access.

  • Fund a statewide study of water rates (HB3852+HB3853 Lapointe). In 2019, MPC supported passage of a bill tasking UIC with studying Illinois’ escalating water rates; unfortunately, the study wasn’t funded. MPC is advocating for $318,000 per year for two years to accomplish this important study.

  • Ensure everyone has access to water during the pandemic (HB632 Buckner/SB1645 Aquino). To ensure all residents have access to safe drinking water, state legislation should be adopted to create a moratorium on public utility water shutoffs through the end of the state of emergency. To assist residents who already have their water shutoff, the state should also provide bottled water to residents without access.

Plan for and fund equitable, sustainable management of water resources.

  • Make the State Water Plan count. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Illinois Environmental Protection Agency are currently updating the State Water Plan for the first time since the 1990s to envision water resources management over Illinois’ long-term. To ensure that the planning process is sustainable, equitable, and actionable, the State should dedicate additional resources to planning, engagement, development, and implementation of the plan.

  • Make the State Revolving Fund work for every community. The State Revolving Fund program is an important source of water infrastructure funding for communities throughout Illinois. Yet there is some evidence that communities with higher percentages of Black and Latinx residents receive fewer of the benefits of this program. MPC is working with stakeholders and State agencies to ensure low-income Black and Latinx communities get access to this funding source.

Equitable Development

In addition to housing, Illinois residents need overall equitable development that invests in local communities wisely and fairly. Illinois is strongest when all residents benefit from growth. Smart development considers market trends, historic disinvestment, and the voices of neighbors.

Create jobs and build wealth.

  • Modernize the Earned Income Tax Credit (HB2792 Ammons/SB2184 Sims) . Too many Illinois families work hard but can’t get ahead. MPC supports modernizing and expanding the state earned income tax credit to put more money in the pockets of working families. Needed improvements include increasing the amount of funding available to working families and ensuring both young and elderly working adults get access to this resource.

Effective Government

Illinois leads the nation in the number of government bodies. Yet this proliferation of government doesn’t produce better services or a more transparent, responsive government. MPC advocates for government streamlining measures that won’t compromise services for residents. Ultimately, these common sense steps will enhance the capacity of all units of government throughout Illinois to operate effectively, innovate, and evolve.

Deliver transparency, accountability, and data-informed decision making.

  • Increase accuracy of real estate data reporting (HB860 Davis). Accurate assessments mean fairer tax distribution. MPC supports policies that create transparency in the collection of real estate data.

Reduce barriers and create pathways to service sharing, streamlining, and consolidation.

  • Establish the School District Efficiency Commission (HB7 Mayfield). MPC supports creating a School District Efficiency Commission to study the effects of school district consolidation across Illinois. 

Metropolitan Planning Council 140 S. Dearborn St.
Suite 1400
Chicago, Ill. 60603
312 922 5616 info@metroplanning.org

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For more than 85 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has partnered with communities, businesses, and governments to unleash the greatness of the Chicago region. We believe that every neighborhood has promise, every community should be heard, and every person can thrive. To tackle the toughest urban planning and development challenges, we create collaborations that change perceptions, conversations—and the status quo. Read more about our work »

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