Friday, January 30, 2015

Enterprise Community Partners, MassHousing announce millions in funding to renovate affordable senior homes

News from NHC's family of members
by Radiah Shabazz, National Housing Conference

Two NHC Leadership Circle members have pledged millions of dollars to fund renovation of affordable housing developments for seniors. In Frederick, Md., Enterprise Community Partners’ development company, Enterprise Homes, Inc., with support from SunTrust Bank, announced nearly $25 million to renovate Taney Village Apartments. In Boston, MassHousing pledged $5 million to fund property improvements for Hunter Place in Springfield. Both properties cater to senior residents. Taney Village also has 13 apartments reserved for adults with disabilities.

Renovations at Taney Village will include energy-efficient windows, upgraded heating and cooling systems and new elevators. Residential common areas will also get new lighting, flooring and furniture. Low-Income Housing Tax Credit equity combined with loans provided by SunTrust, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and the county of Frederick will fund the renovations. Improvements planned for Hunter Place include window replacements, kitchen upgrades and installation of a new boiler system to improve energy efficiency, with additional funding coming from LIHTC.

“In addition to preserving a critical affordable housing resource for 130 households, the Taney Village renovation will have a big economic impact, preserving or generating over 145 jobs,” Senior Vice President for Enterprise Homes, Inc., Christine Madigan said. “This development effort is a great example of public-private collaboration with public funds leveraging private investment comprising 86 percent of total costs.”

A survey conducted by AARP  and cited in our report, Aging in Every Place, found that nearly 90 percent of adults over age 45 and over wish to stay in their homes “for as long as possible” as they age. Renovations to these developments will help older adults feel more comfortable about aging in their homes and communities without the high costs often associated with institutionalized care.

Renovations are expected to be completed by fall 2015 to early 2016. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chicagoland’s model for managing single-family rental investment

by Breann Gala, Metropolitan Planning Council

Much has been written about Chicago’s “tale of two cities,” where high concentrations of poverty exist side-by-side with pockets of great wealth. This reality manifests in many ways, including an uneven housing market recovery that is disproportionately burdening communities struggling to manage their many housing challenges.

Case in point, in 2012, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) recognized a fast-moving trend in real estate investment that is posing the greatest challenge to distressed communities with limited municipal capacity: a rush of investors purchasing single-family homes at low prices and converting them to rental properties.

In south Cook County, a part of the Chicago region with lower incomes and declining home values, the share of single-family home purchases by business buyers jumped from about 10 percent in 2005 to more than 36 percent in 2013. Contrast that with relatively stable, higher income northwest Cook County, where the share of single-family homes purchased by business buyers only increased from six percent in 2005 to 12 percent in 2013 (DePaul University). This level of extreme concentration in certain communities is not just prevalent in the Chicago region, but also applies to metropolitan areas nationwide.

While not universally the case, some large investors have struggled with effective property management as their portfolios have ballooned and scattered; some small landlords have struggled, too, as they may be less experienced with owning and managing a single-family rental home. As a result, many communities with large numbers of single-family rental homes are not only experiencing declining homeownership but also code enforcement issues, which are further exacerbated because inspecting scattered single-family homes is more resource intensive than inspecting multi-family properties.

These challenges have led to a growing suspicion of investor-owners and their negative effects on community vitality. However, if not for the investor-owners, many communities would be experiencing even greater vacancy and blight.

The challenge at hand is not about driving out single-family rental investors, but rather about implementing a regulatory framework that attracts positive investment, rewards good landlord and investor behavior, and effectively cracks down on negative investor behavior. To help communities and investors work together to manage single-family homes so that this growing segment of our region’s housing stock is a benefit, not a burden, MPC published Managing Single-Family Rental Homes in 2012 (updated in June 2013).

With funding from the attorney general’s National Foreclosure Settlement, MPC and our regional partners also began working closely with a cluster of four municipalities in south Cook County to pilot the following cross-municipal strategies:

1. Researching and sharing lessons about the legal limitations on Illinois municipalities with regards to monitoring and inspecting rental properties and pursuing enforcement strategies;

2. Streamlining and strengthening code enforcement processes through shared programming and staff that work across the four participating towns and achieve greater economies of scale;

3. Developing an inter-municipal database for tracking troubled properties, landlords and changes in ownership to better track and implement inspection programs; and

4. Implementing an incentive program to attract and retain responsible investors and landlords.

The goal is to develop strategies that are both cost-effective and replicable, so that even the hardest hit communities, which also have the least municipal resources, can make significant progress. The pilot is focused on a small group of municipalities, but MPC will promote the lessons learned both locally, regionally and nationally and be a resource to communities that want to implement similar initiatives.

Please stay tuned for more information about the pilot and follow our suburban housing work here.

For 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area’s toughest planning and development challenges. Breann Gala is a Project Manager at the Metropolitan Planning Council, where she manages a range of housing and community development initiatives across the Chicago region.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Covington, Georgia, pilots controversial program to revitalize its suburbs

By Amanda Gold, National Housing Conference

Originally approved in 2003 and planned to have 249 homes on large lots, the Walker’s Bend subdivision in Covington, Georgia stalled in 2007. With 79 homes built and only 50 sold, Developer Timber went bankrupt and left behind 160 empty lots and abandoned homes. Shortly thereafter, home values fell and crime rates increased. City planning director Randy Vinson has implemented a controversial plan to save Walker’s Bend, and the city of Covington will be the master developer.

Successes of Covington’s plan
  • Renovation of existing homes: in a 4-2 vote, the city council approved the purchase of the empty lots and partnered with Habitat for Humanity to renovate eight townhouses that had fallen into disrepair.
    • Elimination of vacant lots
    • Provision of affordable housing: for low income residents, the city constructed 32 single-family homes and built a three-story apartment building with an additional 28 units. Next door, the city constructed a 26-unit apartment building for people with disabilities.
    • Budgetary Success: by the time Walker’s Bend is completed, the city expects to have made a profit of about $500,000.
    Community criticism
    • Existing residents are disgruntled by the influx of low-income residents.
    • Some community members have complained that low-income residents are responsible for increased crime in the area. NHC was unable to find data to show crime trends over the past ten years.
    • Some residents also complain about the increase in residential density because of the apartment construction.
    • However, the city’s plan isn’t limited to low-income housing. Market-rate homeownership units are planned along with other projects, but the lengthy process of acquiring funding has slowed construction. 
      Policy implications
      • Walker’s Bend provides an example of when a long-term strategy is necessary for neighborhood recovery, as well as how a distressed suburban neighborhood can provide an opportunity to create a number of other positive changes like inclusionary housing policy, a mixed income neighborhood and a more sustainable development pattern.
      • Walker’s Bend also reveals some of the implementation struggles that a long-term strategy can face. Specifically this case shows that changing the development plan for an existing neighborhood, originally designed as market rate single family detached units to be a denser mixed income neighborhood, incurred neighborhood concern and community disapproval.
      • Did expectations about what the neighborhood was supposed to look like exacerbate community backlash?
      • Can inclusionary neighborhoods be a successful way to stabilize suburban neighborhoods?
      • Can local government play a master developer role like Covington?
      • What kinds of community engagement strategies could be deployed to build support for these changes? NHC’s Communications HUB can be a resource for communities looking for messaging strategies for dealing with a changing neighborhood like Walker’s Bend.
      Cities across America are grappling with the challenge posed by distressed suburban communities in the wake of the housing crisis. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, policy leaders and those in community development would do well to consider the lessons learned in Covington.

      Tuesday, January 13, 2015

      Recap of 2014

      by Rebekah King, National Housing Conference

      2014 held some interesting developments for the affordable housing sector, despite little housing legislation enacted. From changes in HUD and Congressional leadership to the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) decision to fund the National Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund, changes happened at many levels. Given last week’s announcement by the Administration to lower FHA premiums and continued policy actions from the FHFA, and Congressional interest in tax reform, we anticipate 2015 will be another busy year for housing.

      Major housing policy developments of 2014:
      • Julian Castro, former mayor of San Antonio, became the secretary of HUD and Shaun Donovan became the Director of the Office of Management and Budget. Castro has called HUD “the department of opportunity” and emphasized initiatives like Choice Neighborhoods, Jobs Plus, and the Rental Assistance Demonstration. He has also highlighted the need to bridge the digital divide and increase broadband access.
      • Fannie Mae and Freddie Mae began offering 3 percent downpayment mortgages again. These programs will be targeted primarily to first-time and low-income homebuyers, those buyers with good credit but low wealth. These programs will offer first-time homebuyers a more affordable entry to homeownership but may also act as a substitute for FHA mortgages. Now that the Administration has announced a reduction in FHA premiums, we hope both of these developments will empower more creditworthy borrowers to purchase homes.
      • Republicans gained control of the Senate in the mid-term elections. With a Democratic President and a Republican-controlled Congress, legislative impasses are still likely; however, the benefit of not having a divided Congress could be the ability to get more legislation enacted if Republicans and the President can reach compromise.
      • Congress authorized the expansion of the Rental Assistance Demonstration Component 1 program, from 60,000 units to 185,000 units, in the FY15 THUD omnibus bill. This expansion will address all of the applications that have been approved on the waitlist as well as allow for new applications for 8,000 units. The bill also allowed residents in project based Section 8 to participate in the Family Self Sufficiency Program for the first time. Unfortunately, it also prohibited any FHA funding for the HAWK program and made cuts to the CDBG and HOME programs.
      As these developments play out in 2015, we will work to keep housing in the forefront and keep you updated. Look for more on many issues, including the implementation of the National Housing Trust Fund and Capital Magnet Fund, the RAD expansion, and trends in homeownership. In 2015, we also anticipate renewed discussions around tax reform in policy circles and in Congress, attempts to modify Dodd-Frank regulations, as well as another round of difficult HUD and USDA budget negotiations.

      Tuesday, January 6, 2015

      New year, big goals

      by Chris Estes, National Housing Conference

      Happy New Year to all of our members across the country!  After a little time off to recover from a very busy year we are all excited to be back for what will be an even busier 2015.

      On a more somber note, we are sad to mark the death of David Reznick.  Whether you knew David personally or not, chances are you knew about some of his work with the Reznick Group and later CohnReznick. He was at the center of the creation of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and a major force on affordable housing issues thereafter. I enjoyed getting to know David over the past couple of years and really appreciate his long history of support of NHC over the previous decades, and of the new goals we are working to achieve. He was especially supportive of our work on veterans issues, particularly the Veterans Rental Housing Working Group, meetings of which he sometimes even attended personally. He was a true giant in the affordable housing movement and had a significant impact on how our country provides homes for working families and vulnerable people. Our thoughts at NHC go out to his family, and to his colleagues at CohnReznick. For more on David and his life see Radiah’s write-up below.

      As we look ahead in 2015, NHC has many exciting events coming up in the next few months to tell you about. In March we will hold our Annual Budget Forum via webinar so people across the country can participate. This will be an important way for you to learn where congressional budget discussions are headed on housing issues and what you can do to help policymakers understand the impact of funding for housing programs in your community.

      This event will also include the release of the Center for Housing Policy’s Housing Landscape 2015. Housing Landscape summarizes the affordable housing challenges of low- and moderate-income working households in every state in the country. For the first time, Housing Landscape will include reporting on affordability challenges by race and ethnicity.

      In April we will hold our first Solutions 2015 convening, Solutions for Housing Communications, in Seattle, Wash. This day and a half-long event will focus on the root causes of community opposition to affordable housing development and the communications solutions that can help the housing community build support and achieve our goals. This event will be especially valuable for those who develop affordable housing, but will be relevant for everyone who talks to public officials or community members about affordable housing. Look out for more details on this convening in the coming weeks.

      In addition to all of this, we will continue our work on housing policy issues like tax reform, housing finance reform and funding for housing programs We will also launch new initiatives on implementation of the new fair housing rule and bringing a more comprehensive and integrated approach to community development. See below from Ethan and Lisa for more details on our policy and research plans for 2015.

      We look forward to working with you on these efforts and are grateful for the opportunity to be a resource and ally in your work in the coming year.

      BRIDGE Housing breaks ground on Vincent Academy

      News from NHC's family of members
      by Radiah Shabazz, National Housing Conference

      Housing and education was one of many housing intersection themes at November’s Solutions 2014 conference in Oakland and NHC member BRIDGE Housing got the momentum started with a groundbreaking ceremony just a week for Vincent Academy, a public charter school that will serve 350 students mainly from Chestnut Linden Court Apartments. Chestnut is an affordable development financed by BRIDGE. The development features 700 affordable units.

      Funding for the project was provided by NHC Leadership Circle members Chase and Low Income Investment Fund, and by contributions raised through the Vincent Academy-BRIDGE Campaign for West Oakland.

      “Through our partnership with Vincent Academy, we are addressing two systems—housing and education—that affect the ability of children and families to achieve their full potential,” said BRIDGE Housing President and CEO Cynthia Parker. “We’re proud to play a role in this important community development work that has far-reaching impact.”

      Research shows that a child is more likely to perform better in school and have better educational success overall if he or she has access to stable, affordable housing. Our latest report, The Impacts of Affordable Housing on Education, highlights key findings from research on the links between housing and education, finding that [insert relevant finding]. Vincent Academy will do just that, working as a catalyst for families in nearby affordable developments.

      In addition to Parker, speakers at the groundbreaking ceremony included Kate Nicol, head of Vincent Academy and Lynette Gibson McElhaney, an Oakland City Councilmember.

      Research in a time of change: Understanding housing needs, identifying promising solutions

      Developing solutions through research
      by Lisa Sturtevant, PhD, National Housing Conference

      By many measures, 2015 will be a period of transition in housing policy and planning. Home price appreciation is expected to cool in 2015 and a change to federal policy may lead to new opportunities for first-time homebuyers. At the same time, slow wage growth and construction activity will increase rental affordability challenges. Demographic and policy changes will create demands for new housing types and opportunities for service delivery. And localities will be called upon to proactively plan for ways to build inclusive communities.

      What do you need to know in 2015? NHC’s Center for Housing Policy planned a research agenda for 2015 that responds to the policy, economic and demographic factors shaping the affordable housing landscape, with the goal of producing research to help policymakers and practitioners expand housing opportunities. Our research in 2015 will include analysis of five key issues that will be at the forefront of the housing discussion this year:

      Demographic change and housing demand. In communities across the country  housing needs will be shaped by significant changes in the demographic makeup of the population. As part of our work to better understand, explain and forecast housing needs, the Center will analyze the relationships between key demographic trends and affordable housing needs and policies.

      By 2030, one in five people in the U.S. will be age 65 or older, and it is critically important to understand the characteristics and housing needs of this population. In 2012, the Center published a report on the housing needs of the growing older adult population.  Last year, we conducted additional research on seniors’ housing needs with a report on supportive housing and worked collaboratively with the AARP Public Policy Institute (an NHC Leadership Circle member) on a project demonstrating effective policies for meeting the housing needs of older adults. In 2015, we will continue our analysis of the housing needs of seniors and evaluation of best practices in meeting those needs.

      The U.S. population will turn majority minority between 2040 and 2050. The way in which the racial and ethnic composition of the country is changing will have important implications for future housing demand and housing policy. The Center will pursue research to help us better understand housing needs and preferences of fast-growing minority groups—particularly Hispanics—and make recommendations for ensuring this segment of our population has access to affordable housing.

      Alternative measures of housing affordability. The nearly universal measure of housing affordability compares housing costs to household income; housing expenditures that exceed 30 percent of a household’s income have typically been viewed as an indicator of an affordability problem. This 30 percent rule of housing affordability evolved from the National Housing Act of 1937 and subsequent federal legislation defining income and rent limits for housing programs. The housing affordability measure has become a somewhat arbitrary benchmark that fails to account for the many other factors that determine how much an individual or a family can spend on housing and still have enough left over for other necessities.

      The Center for Housing Policy has led important research on how combined housing plus transportation costs can be a better measure of housing affordability. With new location affordability data available from HUD, the Center will analyze the housing and transportation cost burdens among very low-income households to better understand the tradeoffs families make and to assess equitable housing and transportation policies.

      In addition, in conjunction with our annual Paycheck to Paycheck report, will we will develop a national picture of the household expenses of working families, including housing, transportation, child care, health care, clothing and other expenses, and analyze how other household expenses impact the ability of low- and moderate-income households to pay for housing. The results from this analysis will provide a foundation for additional research on a more comprehensive definition of housing affordability.

      The Intersections and Opportunities Around Housing and HealthExtensive research has documented the importance of stable and affordable housing in promoting health and well-being. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Medicaid expansion provide new opportunities for combining housing and health services to achieve better outcomes for low-income individuals and families.  

      As part of the Center’s efforts to open dialogue between the housing and health communities, we will undertake several projects around the intersection of housing and health in 2015. We will update our 2011 review of the research on the impacts of housing on health, develop case studies of successful programs that have integrated housing and health services and review the research on cost effectiveness of connecting housing and health services. The primary goals of this work are to provide a link between housing and health professionals and to lift up best practices for combining housing and health services.

      Building inclusive communities. In 2014, HUD released the proposed Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule, designed to end patterns of segregation and create more inclusive communities, wider pathways to economic improvement and more opportunities for individuals and families to flourish. In 2014, NHC and the Center submitted comments on the proposed fair housing assessment tool, suggesting ways in which HUD could improve the design and release of the tool to help local communities advance their fair housing goals. In 2015, the Center will continue to do work that supports local fair housing efforts by analyzing common barriers to developing local strategies for AFFH implementation and making recommendations based on a review of best practices from around the country.

      Inclusionary zoning policies can be a key mechanism by which localities plan for housing that is affordable to individuals and families all along the income spectrum. The Center has been a leader in research and best practices on inclusionary housing policies, including a research report on inclusionary housing and lasting affordability and achieving inclusionary housing through upzoning, both completed in 2014. This year we will continue our research on inclusionary housing, including a review of best practices in mandatory versus voluntary inclusionary housing programs and a comprehensive review of the impacts of inclusionary housing programs on local economies and housing markets.

      As part of our efforts to be a resource to local policymakers and practitioners, we will also compile a comprehensive set of resources on inclusionary housing programs, as an extension of our site. This online resource will be a “go-to” portal on inclusionary housing, with research summaries, case studies and other resources for practitioners and researchers.

      The nature of homeownership. This year could bring significant change to the homeownership market and it is important to understand the implications of new policy directives and market conditions. The housing market has rebounded in most places across the country, but there are signs that that the run-up in prices will slow in 2015. The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) released new guidelines for first-time homebuyers which will allow a return to three percent down payments on home loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a move which could bring more first-time homebuyers in the market in 2015. Access to homeownership among lower-income households and racial and ethnic minorities slowed considerably after the downturn, but there is concern that loosening mortgage requirements may lead to another round of foreclosures.

      This year, the Center will pursue research projects to help the housing community better understand the impacts of federal policies related to homeownership, including the effects on the ability of first-time homebuyers to enter the market and the prospects for homeownership to reduce the growing wealth divide.

      In addition, building on prior research on shared equity homeownership, the Center will pursue research that examines alternative means of homeownership, including not only shared equity homeownership, but also lease-to-own and other models. As a result of this review, we will better understand the avenues to open up homeownership to more households and also assess critically the opportunities for broad alternative homeownership models, as opposed to local, niche models.

      As we head into 2015, we are excited about pursuing a research agenda that touches on issues at the forefront of the housing policy discussion. In addition to these lines of research, we will have a number of other projects underway in 2015, including Housing Landscape, our annual report on severely cost-burdened households, and Paycheck to Paycheck, our interactive tool and report on affordability for key workers in the community.

      But we want to hear from you! What research would be most helpful to you in 2015? I welcome your emails (to on ideas for research reports, data, analysis and case studies that would be a help to you as you do your work on the ground helping to create affordable housing opportunities for individuals and families. Happy 2015!

      Monday, January 5, 2015

      New report shows households not receiving recommended home visits

      News from NHC's family of members

      by Radiah Shabazz, National Housing Conference 

      A November report released by NHC member National Center for Healthy Housing (NCHH), in partnership with the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, revealed that homes where children have been exposed to lead, or have asthma, are not receiving the recommended number of home visits from Medicaid directors.

      The report, Healthcare Financing of Healthy Homes Services: Findings from a 2014 Survey of State Reimbursement Policies, reveals that 27 states have some form of Medicaid reimbursement policy in place for in-home asthma services or follow-up service for lead, but many states have no mandatory follow-up procedure in place. Services are required by Medicaid’s early periodic Screening, Diagnostic and treatment benefit for children with lead exposure, but only 18 states currently require provision of these services.

      “Asthma and lead poisoning are costly problems for our society and our healthcare system. These costs can be reduced by closing critical gaps in the delivery of recommended services and ensuring that once policies are in place they are translated into actual services for people who need them,” said Amanda Reddy, director of programs and impact at NCHH. Dr. Paul Jarris, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, added that the report “provides critical information” to help policymakers understand how vital reimbursement policies work so they can “assist with the challenges states face in implementing them.”

      Healthy housing supports much more than physical health of a child. It promotes overall wellbeing. In a recent case study completed by NHC for last October’s How Housing Matters Conference, research showed that healthy, affordable housing promotes improved air quality and decreases exposure to toxins while enabling residents to lead more active lives.

      The report authors will perform a follow-up analysis that may assist state and local agencies in exploring financing for healthy homes services at a later time. You can find the full report here.

      Mercy Housing and National Housing Trust named AHF Readers’ Choice Winners

      News from NHC's family of members

      by Radiah Shabazz, National Housing Conference

      Affordable Housing Finance (AHF) recently announced winners of its 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards and two NHC members were among the award recipients. Mercy Housing won in the family and seniors categories for its Caroline Severance Manor development in Los Angeles and Coast Side Senior Housing in Half Moon Bay, Calif., respectively. National Housing Trust (NHT) received top honors in the preservation category for Pullman Wheelworks in Chicago, an honor shared with Mercy Housing and Enterprise Preservation Corporation.

      Mercy Housing and NHT were among 132 nominees, narrowed down to just 34 finalists across nine categories. Finalists were selected by AHF readers with judging criteria based on community impact, creative problem solving, innovativeness and more. Winners were honored in a special ceremony during AHF Live: The 2014 Affordable Housing Developers Summit held in Chicago last November. They were also featured in the November/December issue of Affordable Housing Finance.

      Pullman Wheelworks, located in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood, features 210 affordable multifamily rental units with green upgrades. The development offers employment training and education services to tenants and is currently under renovation to accommodate future tenants who may have physical disabilities.

      Severance Manor caters to families with children being raised by relatives other than parents and features one- to four-bedroom affordable units. Mercy Housing worked with California Community Foundation Land Trust and the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles to develop a mixed-use community with licensed child-care center and parking for the church. Coast Side Senior Housing features 40 one-bedroom units in a mixed-use development for extremely low-income older adults near downtown Half Moon Bay. The development is a key component to San Mateo County’s plan to integrate more senior housing in the downtown Half Moon Bay area. 

      Chicago-area model relies on regional collaboration to create new affordable rental homes

      by Breann Gala, Metropolitan Planning Council

      NHC invites guest blog posters to write on important housing topics. The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect those of NHC or its members.

      Most people choose where to live. Often, we begin our search in specific towns or neighborhoods because of their reputation. They’re safe. They’re fun. They’re close to shops or work or good schools. For low-income families and those using rental assistance, the choices are slimmer. Often the most affordable places to live are in neighborhoods with high violence, poor quality schools and few amenities or transit options.

      The Housing Choice Voucher program, created in the 1970s to help low- and moderate- income households afford quality rental housing and to make progress to deconcentrate poverty, has not yet achieved its goal of helping low-income families advance beyond poverty. According to the recent report Creating Opportunity for Children by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, only 15 percent of children in families that receive Housing Choice Vouchers live in low-poverty communities.[1]

      One reason for this is the lack of affordable rental homes in communities with access to transit, good jobs and quality schools. Chicagoland has grappled for decades with concentrated poverty and a lack of housing choices for low-income families.

      To address the region’s growing housing challenges, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Illinois Housing Development Authority and eight regional housing authorities created a collaborative called the Regional Housing Initiative (RHI) to support affordable and mixed-income rental housing developments in communities near transit, job centers and quality schools.

      Since 2002, the public housing authorities participating in this initiative have pooled a portion of their rental assistance vouchers to provide long-term support for the rehabilitation or construction of affordable apartments in great communities across the region. By allowing eight housing authorities to pool their resources, the Regional Housing Initiative creates a mechanism through which a suburban housing development can receive subsidies even if the local housing authority lacks resources. The effort also helps Chicagoland balance the effects of federal funding formulas that provide the lion’s share of resources to the City of Chicago, but have not kept pace with the rest of the region’s demand for affordable rental homes. By pooling and transferring subsidies, the Regional Housing Initiative has supported 406 apartments in 28 affordable or mixed-income developments in 19 communities.

      Through its success in the Chicago region, this effort has positioned itself as a national model. MPC is proud to be a part of a regional initiative that the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development is working to replicate in Baltimore, Denver and the Bay Area, to improve the lives of hundreds of families.

      In an era when government inefficiencies and gridlock color our national and regional discourse on so many issues, it is refreshing to see government banding together productively to help families improve their lives. When it comes to housing, MPC’s philosophy is to provide people with more housing choices, not fewer. That’s what this collaborative is all about. We urge other metropolitan areas across the country to consider new regional solutions that break down the barriers that hold people in place and waste our precious housing resources.

      Watch this video to learn about the initiative and find out why HUD is interested in replicating it.

      For 80 years, the Metropolitan Planning Council has made the Chicago region a better place to live and work by partnering with businesses, communities and governments to address the area’s toughest planning and development challenges. Breann Gala is a Project Manager at the Metropolitan Planning Council in Chicago where she manages a range of housing and community development initiatives across the Chicago region.

      [1] Communities where less than 10 percent of residents have incomes below the poverty line.