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HUD Lauds Chicago-area Program for Equitable Development

A recent article from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Policy Development and Research division focused on the importance of ensuring equity in communities’ smart growth plans. HUD’s definition of “smart growth,” in this case, included intentional thinking and planning to support “safe, healthy, equitable, and prosperous communities.” Regional collaboration in the Chicago area was specifically cited as a model of intentionally supporting equity in housing development.
 
The Chicago Regional Housing Choice Initiative (CRHCI) officially launched with the help of HUD in 2011, but has been working as a multi-sector collaborative effort to address affordable housing concerns since 1999. HUD supports the CRCHI pilot in part to demonstrate “if mobility counseling and the regional administration of local PHA resources can give families desirable location outcomes while reducing government costs and administrative burdens.” The Initiative consists of eight area PHAs, the Metropolitan Planning Council, HUD, and a non-profit partner.
 
These Chicago-area partners were motivated to address affordable housing and equity issues because of the region’s growing imbalance between jobs and affordable housing, and fears that these developments threatened the region’s economic competitiveness. Simply put: people could not find affordable housing on the incomes provided by the area’s fastest growing labor markets. The mismatch of jobs, labor needs, housing, and affordability meant that residents could often not afford to live near their jobs and neighborhoods became increasingly segregated by income.
 
To begin to address these issues, CRHCI encourages families to use Housing Choice Vouchers to facilitate access to different neighborhoods, spurs the construction of mixed-income housing, and provides mobility counseling to families seeking affordable housing. The pilot project has had successes—345 vouchers provide subsidies in 28 communities, with more than 1,700 apartments either in use or in development. CRCHI also uses data from HUD to map the region using an “opportunity index” which assesses neighborhood quality based on housing stability, job access, and transit access. The information helps CRHCI identify “high-opportunity areas” that may be suitable sites for ongoing affordable housing development.
 
CRCHI’s success demonstrates that with intentionality and planning, affordable housing development can be equitable and financially shrewd. Ultimately, creating a regional collaborative of partners helped keep housing affordable and convenient for many. Rather than isolating lower-income families, CRCHI’s efforts help to integrate all income levels into smart growth neighborhoods that are beneficial for both community building and regional economic competitiveness.

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Blog | by Dr. Radut