July 2007

In this issue

Are We Making Progress?

HOT STUFF: Waiting For Affordable Housing

HUD Touts Green Initiative

Member Spotlight: Car Sharing and the Center for Neighborhood Technology

Aldermanic Briefing a Success

CRN Hosts West Side Leadership Breakfast

Recent Federal Housing Legislation: SEVRA Passes the House

Stay Tuned for Upcoming Trainings

Takin' Note

Job Opportunities


Are We Making Progress?
Kevin Jackson head shot

by Kevin Jackson

We've seen two important new affordable housing policies from the 5th floor this year: the passage of the amended Affordable Requirements Ordinance and the just-passed Affordable Housing Preservation Ordinance.

Some reflection on both might reveal important next steps for those of us in the advocacy community.

Many of us have been working on the concept of the ARO for over 8 years now. The ARO as amended upholds the principles of inclusionary housing policies around the country - that booming real estate markets create both opportunities and burdens - that even people of modest means should benefit from city development improvements - that the funds raised from "in lieu" of fees can benefit housing for the poor (as the units created do not).

Still, it is hard not to be somewhat discouraged by the resistance along the way. The original ordinance introduced by Ald. Toni Preckwinkle awarded density (read: profit) to developers in exchange for affordable units - that fact got lost in debates about mandates vs. incentives. On the other hand, the timing of the Zoning rewrite worked in our favor as the outpouring of community pressure forced the downtown density bonus as the precedent for what we have today.

In the end, it is good that Chicago finally has a policy in place which requires affordable housing in developments where the developer receives city assistance. That doesn't negate the fact, however, that thousands of affordable units could have been created if this had been done years earlier.

Our next big challenge is to ensure that stakeholders and decision-makers use their power to ensure application of the ARO on every eligible development. We raised the issue at the last Housing and Real Estate Committee Hearing and many aldermen understood that success of the ARO requires unprecedented coordination between key City Departments and committees. CRN will be offering training over the next six months on this - and we'll do our best to keep sunshine on the issue too with our tracking system at http://www.chicagorehab.org/reso urces/docs/policy/aro/arowatch.pdf. While still in its infancy, I'm sure you'll agree that we have to start somewhere.

The Affordable Housing Preservation Ordinance recently passed out of Committee and City Council. It lays out a set of procedures and policies which builds on the Illinois Federally Assisted Housing Preservation Act to require that Chicago owners provide proper notice to the Commissioner of Housing if they intend to alter federal affordability restrictions on a rental property.

This City ordinance adds "qualified entities/developers" to the "right of purchase" category. This is a good policy in general that is standard protocol in cities throughout the country. It defines characteristics of qualified entities and requires the timely public posting of notices and sales agreements to be provided by the Commissioner.

This is enabling legislation. A definite step in the right direction and a foundation to build upon - but largely unfunded with the proper resources. We know that there is sufficient development capacity and willingness of CDCs to serve as "qualified entities" and purchase these buildings. The key challenge towards achieving impact will be whether the resources exist to allow qualified entities to purchase and improve these assisted buildings for the low income households that reside there today and in the future.

Progress? You be the judge.

For 25 years, the Chicago Rehab Network (CRN) has worked to further the development and preservation of safe affordable housing in Chicago, and throughout the state of Illinois.

  • HOT STUFF: Waiting For Affordable Housing
  • Bickerdike housing line

    When Bickerdike Redevelopment Corporation announced it would be re-opening its Section 8 waiting list, some 600 people started lining up two days before the pre-applications were handed out. Hundreds waited in line overnight, some for two nights, for a chance to apply for the affordable apartments. Once families are on the list, waits for Bickerdike's Section 8 units can be 1 to 3 years. The non-profit's total Section 8 portfolio is 454 units. In 2004, approximately 1,500 people stood in line for 500 slots on a Bickerdike waiting list that had not been opened in three years. Affordable housing, obviously, remains an important issue for Humboldt Park and Chicago residents.

  • HUD Touts Green Initiative
  • HUD introduced July 20 its Green Initiative, a nationwide pilot initiative to encourage owners and purchasers of affordable, multifamily properties to rehabilitate and operate their properties using sustainable Green Building principles. These principles comprise sustainability, energy efficiency, recycling, and indoor air quality, and incorporate the "Healthy Housing" approach pioneered by HUD.

    The Green Initiative will focus on properties within HUD's Section 8 portfolio, specifically properties in the Mark to Market (M2M) Program administered by the Office of Affordable Housing Preservation (OAHP).

    What is Green Building? The real estate industry, including the housing industry (and more particularly the affordable housing industry), is undergoing a fundamental shift toward Green Building principles. Green Building is an approach to sustainable development that is designed to result in a property that reduces its impact on the environment, costs less to operate, and improves the residents' quality of life, according to HUD.

    To date, the focus of green initiatives nationally has been primarily on new construction rather than on rehab, particularly the moderate level of rehab that is typically associated with M2M properties. There are fewer opportunities to Go Green in rehab, but the opportunities are nonetheless significant and worth pursuing, particularly when viewed in the context of the M2M standard 20-year schedule of property repairs and replacements, said HUD.

    Green rehab practices should result in lower utility costs that benefit HUD as well as residents. They should also result in other benefits, generally in the form of lower environmental impact. When rehab is performed in a manner that meets both Green and Healthy Housing principles, residents will benefit from lower utility costs (to the extent the cost savings are shared by the owner and residents), improved indoor air quality, lower risk of pest infestations, lower levels of allergens, and reduced risk of mold-related illness, HUD said.

    Why apply Green principles in the M2M Program? The M2M Program offers a unique platform for establishing a Green Initiative in the HUD affordable housing portfolio because it can be implemented within existing statutes, regulations, and authorities. M2M affords the opportunity to implement Green Building principles in a representative sample of M2M restructurings involving properties that are already undergoing rehabilitation, from within the larger HUD portfolio, the agency said. As HUD's primary housing preservation tool since its creation in 1997, OAHP has restructured more than 1,600 projects nationwide through the M2M program. These projects are privately owned, HUD-subsidized (through Section 8), multifamily properties, with approx 100 units each, on average. In addition to rehabilitating properties, M2M also resizes and restructures property debt to account for market rent levels, to pay for rehabilitation and 20 years' of estimated repairs and replacements, and to establish a financially viable project for the long term, said HUD.

    M2M provides an opportunity to test the impact of Green and Healthy Housing principles in the existing HUD-subsidized multifamily inventory by providing modest incentives to owners and purchasers to perform needed rehab and maintenance using Green alternatives, and to collect ongoing data to validate impacts on utility consumption and indoor air quality, HUD said.

    Questions or comments regarding the M2M Green Initiative should be referred to Ted Toon, OAHP Deputy Assistant Secretary (Theodore.K.Toon@HUD.gov, 202- 402-8386), and Carolyn Carpenter Porritt, OAHP Headquarters Financial Transaction Specialist (Carolyn.Carpenter.Porritt@HUD.gov, 202-402-8369).

  • Member Spotlight: Car Sharing and the Center for Neighborhood Technology
  • spotlight

    I-GO Car Sharing is one among many exciting projects taking place at the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), a non-profit that focuses on sustainable development. I-GO is another way to relieve some of the housing and transportation cost burden faced by working families. I-GO is a CNT initiative designed to make inexpensive and environmentally friendly transportation more accessible to Chicagoans.

    Launched in 2002 with support from the city and Department of Transportation as a pilot car-share program, today more than 100 I-GO cars are located in 23 communities. For a basic membership fee, drivers can access energy efficient hybrid vehicles for $6 per reserved hour, plus $0.50 per mile, at any of I- GO location in Chicago. With gas, auto insurance and maintenance prices soaring, I-GO has become a valuable alternative to owning a car, with a savings of up to $4,000 per year in transportation costs. With gas, auto insurance and maintenance prices soaring, I-GO has become a valuable alternative to owning a car, with a savings of up to $4,000 per year in transportation costs. According to CNT, 50 percent of those who owned cars prior to joining sold their cars after six-months of membership.

    Since becoming the car sharing programs chief executive officer, Sharon Feigon has helped increase I-GO's capacity three-fold. Before heading the I-GO program, Sharon was CNT's Manager of Research and Development and concentrated on innovative solutions to problems of urban sprawl.

    Click here for more about the Center for Neighborhood Technology
  • Aldermanic Briefing a Success
  • CRN invited city council members to a July 26 briefing on affordable housing to acquaint lawmakers and their staffers with affordable housing issues and to discuss the role of non-profit community developers and other community-based housing organizations in addressing affordable housing needs. Some 25 Chicago aldermen and their staff members attended the briefing.

    Several new aldermen are beginning their terms in the city council and many observers see a renewed commitment to creating and preserving affordable housing, especially with the passing of the Affordable Requirements Ordinance and the Affordable Housing Preservation Ordinance, which supports the Illinois Housing Preservation Act, a state law CRN helped pass in 2004. Through training and technical assistance, CRN is committed to informing policymakers on the current and emerging housing issues in the city.

  • CRN Hosts West Side Leadership Breakfast
  • CRN hosted leaders on Chicago's West Side in a discussion of affordable housing issues June 21 at the Garfield Park Conservatory. The meeting was convened to broaden local leadership's understanding of the housing stock on the West Side, including the valuable stock of federally assisted housing, and evaluate strategies for long-term housing sustainability.

    Leaders from a diverse range of organizations were in attendance, including the Steans Family Foundation, community-based nonprofits such as the Pilsen Alliance and the Lawndale Business and Local Development Corporation, local developers such as Herron Development and Hispanic Housing Development Corporation, and elected officials from local aldermen to the office of Sen. Dick Durbin. Alderman Ed Smith, Rev. George Daniels of First Baptist and Steven McCullough of Bethel New Life helped convene the meeting, which included a presentation on local housing trends and facts, as well as an open discussion about serious challenges on the West Side, and strategies for reinvestment and retention of valuable housing resources.

  • Recent Federal Housing Legislation: SEVRA Passes the House
  • Us Capitol

    The 2007 legislative season witnessed aggressive efforts to push a national housing agenda as advocates moved quickly to take advantage of changes in the congressional climate since last fall's elections. The most recent major victory was the passage of the 2007 Section 8 Voucher Reform Act (SEVRA) through the House of Representatives. SEVRA is a sweeping reform bill that contains provisions that alter key components of the Section 8 program.

    These include:

    1. A new voucher funding formula that will create incentives for housing agencies to assist more families and eliminate much of the $1.4 billion of unused funds in housing agency reserves;
    2. Authorization of 100,000 new incremental vouchers spread out over five years;
    3. Allowing housing agencies to use a greater percentage of their funds (25 percent) towards project- based vouchers, as opposed to tenant-based vouchers;
    4. Greater targeting towards lower income families;
    5. · Facilitating portability, or the ability of families to take their vouchers to other districts, without negative impact on public housing agencies;
    6. Allowing vouchers to be put towards homeownership;
    7. Reducing burdens on housing agencies, landlords and families through simplifying rent calculation, inspection rules, and income recertification;
    8. Expansion of "Moving to Work," a controversial demonstration program that has allowed select numbers of public housing agencies (including the Chicago Housing Authority) the flexibility to experiment with their development plans and bypass normal HUD requirements and regulations.

    These are only some of the important provisions contained in SEVRA, a bill that advocates crafted to incorporate diverse needs and build support for across the spectrum - from HUD tenants to owners and public housing administrators. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment was SEVRA passed by an overwhelming bipartisan majority of 333 to 83 in the House. While new challenges await as the Senate version of the bill is pushed, the recent victory offers encouragement to housing advocates across the country. For more information on other provisions in SEVRA, or debates over existing provisions, contact CRN or see the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities website.

  • Stay Tuned for Upcoming Trainings
  • Midwest Academy and CRN will offer a multi-day training on preservation and tenant organizing in late September. There are two seats remaining! For more information, contact Gené Moreno at CRN, at 312-663-3936.

    CRN will also be offering additional trainings in coming months, including "Using TIF Resources for Affordable Housing" and "Tracking the Affordable Requirements Ordinance and Making It Work for Your Neighborhood."

  • Takin' Note
  • Small Version notepad

    Congratulations to Melissa McDaniel, the new executive director of the North River Commission. Melissa became executive director after working as NRC economic development specialist for the past four years. While North River Commission has largely focused its recent energy on economic development, Melissa plans to put more emphasis on preserving affordable housing in her organization's target area.

    Lawndale Christian Development Corp. invites you to celebrate the grand opening of Gideon Homes, one of the former Lawndale Restoration properties on Wednesday, Aug. 8, 10-11 a.m., at 3242 W. Douglas Blvd. Refreshments will be provided, but please RSVP to 773-762-8889, ext. 45.

  • Job Opportunities
  • If you are looking for new opportunity several organizations are seeking staffers. Heartland Housing http://www.heartlandalliance.org has two openings, director of property management and real estate development assistant. Claretian Associates is seeking a New Communities Program director. ... Access Living of Metropolitan Chicago, a center for independent living, seeks a full-time community development organizer to develop and implement an organizing campaign to further fair housing for residents with disabilities in public assisted housing. Cover letters and resumes may be faxed to the Manager of Administration at (312) 787-3866, sent via e-mail to nanderson@accessliving.org.

    richard@chicagorehab.org richard@chicagorehab.org
    http://www.chicagorehab.org http://www.chicagorehab.org

    Email Marketing by