Community leaders and affordable housing advocates from across Illinois are energized by Governor Pritzker’s May 17 capital budget proposal, which includes $175 million for affordable housing. They are now unified in urging the General Assembly to expand on this foundation by allocating additional funds to affordable housing. The Build UP Illinois coalition, which brings together housing, education, healthcare, and labor organizations, is urging elected officials to finalize a vertical capital construction program that will meet the state’s affordable housing infrastructure needs.
“Housing is our state’s most important social and economic infrastructure,” says Allison Clements, Executive Director of the Illinois Housing Council. “Illinois faces a vast shortage of affordable housing for seniors, for working families, for the disabled, and for vulnerable groups like the formerly homeless, citizens returning from prison, and victims of domestic violence.”
Illinois last invested in a major capital bill in 2009, which included $145 million for affordable housing. $69.7 million of capital funds were used to construct or rehab 694 affordable rental homes across Illinois. This investment leveraged an additional $82.5 million in public and private resources. The remaining funds were used to promote affordable homeownership, including rehabbing vacant homes in communities hard hit by the foreclosure crisis.
“Previous capital budget funding made it possible for us to create Glendale Commons, which includes 28 affordable rental homes for people who were formerly homeless,” says Christine Kahl of Phoenix Community Development Services (formerly South Side Office of Concern) in Peoria. “One of our first residents, a mother of three, had been living in a hotel in such bad conditions that the building was later closed down. We have the chance to help many more families like hers by investing in affordable housing in a capital budget today.”
Capital dollars for affordable housing can also help to revitalize neighborhoods starved for investment. An investment of $900,000 of capital funds from the 2009 bill was leveraged into over $15 million worth of investment in Chicago Lawn—a neighborhood swamped by foreclosures after the 2008 financial crisis. This investment transformed over 75 vacant buildings back into rehabbed, occupied housing on the tax rolls, created over 100 affordable homes and apartments, decreased crime by over 60% and significantly improved the quality of local schools.
Unfortunately, the need for affordable housing across the state remains. There is no county in Illinois where a full-time minimum wage worker can afford a modest apartment; in fact, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a worker must earn $20.34 an hour to afford a two bedroom apartment. The state also faces a shortage of 23,000 supportive housing units for veterans, people with disabilities, and people at risk of homelessness. These types of housing save taxpayers an average $22,000 per household—a cost effective alternative to institutionalization.
Current state and federal resources to address the affordable housing needs of Illinois communities are extremely oversubscribed. Capital budget dollars dedicated to affordable housing will be highly leveraged with additional public and private funding, and unlike many other items in the capital budget, will generate new property taxes for the state.
The $175 million for affordable housing in the capital budget proposal would achieve outcomes similar to the above, but much more is needed. For example, if Illinois invested $1 billion in a capital budget for affordable housing, it would leverage additional public and private funds to:
- Build 10,000 affordable rental homes
- Create 16,000 jobs
- Generate $775 million in taxes for local governments over the course of 15 years
- Revitalize communities
“We need to rebuild our state. We need a robust capital investment in the neighborhoods and homes where our families live, so that they can save money, build wealth, and have real opportunities to achieve their hopes and dreams.” said Jeff Bartow, Executive Director of the Southwest Organizing Project.
Capital dollars for affordable housing can give people more reasons to stay in Illinois, while enticing employers and families to relocate here. After local employers said they could not find enough workers locally because of a lack of decent, affordable workforce housing in the community and that they were considering moving to Indiana, the City of Paris, Illinois worked with Laborers’ Home Development Corp. (a nonprofit affiliate of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, Midwest Region) to develop Maple Ridge Apartments. The affordable development has contributed to the expansion and retention of North American Lighting, the largest employer in Paris, and has provided working families the opportunity to live near jobs.
“The time for Illinois to address the need for affordable housing is now,” says Bob Palmer, Policy Director for Housing Action Illinois. “Parts of our state are struggling with gentrification, where long-time residents are being displaced from neighborhoods they helped to build. Other communities experiencing disinvestment are struggling to provide decent, affordable housing for all their residents. Building on Governor Pritzker’s capital budget proposal would make an even greater impact on the affordable housing needs of our communities.”
About Build UP Illinois
Build UP Illinois is a coalition of diverse groups to advocate and promote State construction program as part of a comprehensive capital bill. Coalition members include groups representing P-20 education—including k-12 school districts and both private and public colleges—the Illinois hospital system, affordable housing advocates, the AFL-CIO and affiliated building trades unions. Learn more at www.buildupillinois.com.
Kristin Ginger, Communications Manager, Housing Action Illinois