Throughout 2010, to bolster Illinois' competitive edge for various federal funding streams while improving its own bottom line, a state working group gathered to:
Promote linkages between housing, transportation, environment, and employment (including job creation and retention) in Illinois and among state agencies, and
Develop and capitalize on existing regional coordination and collaboration initiatives, while recognizing diverse models and capacities.
It's not too early to factor State Linkage Working Group recommendations into 2011 budget projections, especially as we compete for limited federal resources and demonstrate how Illinois supports the federal Livability Principles.
Given fiscal constraints nationwide, Illinois has much to gain by acting swiftly to implement some of the basic efficiencies suggested. Some of the proposed action items are quite basic, such as implementing a statewide policy to advance the above goals, and identifying each agency’s role in terms of its own investments and plans. Others are more aggressive, such as aligning funding and technical assistance across agencies to collaborate with regional stakeholders and support transit-oriented developments.
While the Linkage Group's final recommendations are vetted through the governor's office and key state agencies, national organizations such as the National Housing Conference, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, and Brookings Institution also are spotlighting the need for states to identify their role in promoting competitive regions and interagency coordination. Illinois has the opportunity to position itself as a leader in this space, and tap federal and private sector resources created to reward such efficiency and innovation.
Already, the Rebuilding Foundations – Illinois’ 2011 Annual Comprehensive Housing Plan has translated the Linkage Group’s broader recommendations into 2011 action steps. And the State's Qualified Allocation Plan (guiding the development activity funded through Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits) already evolved to better distribute resources per capita, statewide, while encouraging "live near work and/or transit" priorities. But greater statewide leadership and support is still necessary … and worth the effort. Scaling up and replicating lessons learned through on-the-ground initiatives -- such as the South Suburban Mayors Association, Reconnecting Neighborhoods, Employer-Assisted Housing and the Regional Housing Initiative -- could save the state lots of money, all in the name of stable jobs and livable communities.