Quality affordable rental housing is always needed throughout the State. But the economic and social costs of the pandemic have further underscored this need in a variety of ways in communities throughout Illinois. As shutdowns forced residents out of work and economic uncertainty created unique challenges for developers and property owners, IHDA’s low-cost financing and underwriting flexibility have kept the pipeline of affordable housing projects moving forward. Key examples are below.
2021 saw the completion of the Bristol Place Residences, a 90-unit rental development of single-family homes and townhomes that is part of an extensive City of Champaign community revitalization strategy. One of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, Bristol Place was mired in decades of disinvestment, vacant lots, blighted homes, and few community amenities. The city purchased and demolished the former Bristol properties while more than 50 households were temporarily relocated. Considerable public input was the cornerstone to the redevelopment plan that would reinvigorate the neighborhood by fostering sustainable affordable housing, human scale, parks and open spaces, and public safety. The development – which fully opened in 2021 – is a model of community choice and input that was funded by an allocation of federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits worth $13.5 million in equity as well as Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credits awarded by IHDA.
Like in many Chicago communities, changing demographics are pushing many long-time Pilsen residents out of the neighborhood. As property values have increased, rents have gone up by more than 21 percent in the past decade, and the historically Latinx population in the neighborhood has declined by nearly 17 percent. A neighborhood-based nonprofit proposed a new 53-unit affordable housing development in the heart of the neighborhood and IHDA offered to support the project with federal HOME funds and Section 811 rental assistance. Located on two separate lots approximately half a mile away from each other, the community-focused development supports a broader strategy to curtail the negative impacts of gentrification by strategically preserving waning affordability and improving the existing affordable living opportunities for residents. When completed in late 2022, the development will provide 53 affordable apartments, as well as optional services designed to support financial wellness and career and college planning for residents.
In 2020 and 2021, IHDA closed $825.8 million in multifamily lending and awarded state and federal housing tax credits worth $860.2 million in equity to finance the construction, rehabilitation, and preservation of 7,128 affordable rental units for families, seniors, and persons with special needs. During this time IHDA worked closely with project sponsors to offer more flexibility to partners whose developments were impacted by changing interest rates and found solutions for developments whose supply chains for construction materials were disrupted by the pandemic. Even with these numbers, over 370,000 Illinois renters are paying over 50% of their income towards rent. Closing this affordability gap requires more than financing alone. Over the last several years, IHDA expanded its Community Revitalization Technical Assistance Program to provide municipalities with free help and additional capacity to understand local needs, develop housing goals, and implement plans designed to achieve those goals. Annual partnerships under this program more than doubled in 2020 and 2021, and 5 long-term partnerships were completed resulting in tailored community revitalization strategies adopted by local jurisdictions to guide future development initiatives.
To further encourage development efforts to provide more opportunities for residents to succeed, IHDA introduced several new data tools and resources to increase transparency and allow for deeper analyses of local markets. In addition to the IHDA Market Analysis Application, a resource that summarizes economic, demographic, and housing data to help development sponsors prepare more competitive proposals that better address the underlying housing needs of residents, IHDA has updated all of its established tools (the Affordable Rental Unity Survey and the Affordability Risk Index) and established a new Quality of Life Index (QOLI). The QOLI is an exciting new tool that uses many different data sets to measure several categories contributing to quality of life (education, prosperity, health, housing quality, and connectivity). In the QOLI, community attributes can be identified along with needs – leading to more targeted and community facing housing developments throughout Illinois.
Supportive housing for residents at risk of homelessness, with physical challenges or mental health needs, and other vulnerable populations is one of the most critical — but difficult — housing to provide. Throughout 2020 and 2021 a renewed strategy of interagency coordination was employed to better pair housing development with key services and to create new paths towards identifying and meeting needs throughout the state.
IHDA’s Permanent Supportive Housing Development Program was updated to encourage developments to partner with health and hospital systems, coordinate with the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and their grantees to house young adults aging out of DCFS care, and help residents leaving the state prison system gain access and maintain stable housing. Additionally, IHDA made the first awards under the Re-Entry Rental Assistance Program, a joint effort launched in 2020 with the Illinois Department of Corrections. Under the pilot program, IHDA awarded $3 million to support housing placement, rental subsidies, and supportive services to help 75 individuals exiting IDOC facilities maintain their independence, dignity, and self-sufficiency as they return to the community.
Throughout 2021, IHDA has also been laying the groundwork for a partnership with the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), a national leader in supportive housing, to create a Supportive Housing Institute designed to build capacity for both new and experienced developers and service providers outside of the Chicago metro area. Expected to launch in 2022, the Institute will help the state’s supportive housing partners navigate the complex process of developing housing with supportive services and reduce the time it takes to obtain funding by improving the planning, development, and initial project implementation process.