Illinois needs more affordable housing: study — 1IL

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There are just 36 affordable units available for every 100 extremely low-income renters

By Ted Cox

Illinois has just 36 affordable housing units available for every 100 extremely low-income renters, according to a new study released Tuesday by advocacy groups.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition and Housing Action Illinois released the study, “The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes,” which found that, as a result of the shortage, 71 percent of the poorest renter households in the state are “severely housing cost-burdened,” meaning they spend more than half of their income on housing.

“Far too many families in Illinois are spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing, living on the brink,” said Sharon Legenza, executive director of Housing Action Illinois. “They’re forced to choose between necessities like medicine and groceries or paying the rent. They’re just one financial setback away from eviction and homelessness.”

The groups defined extremely low-income renters as “those with incomes at or below the poverty line, or 30 percent of their area median income.” There are an estimated 450,000 ELI renter households statewide, and according to the study the shortage is even more dire in the Chicago metro area, where there are just 31 affordable units for every 100 ELI renters.

The national study found Illinois to be reflective of the Midwest, with between 30 and 40 units available for every 100 ELI renters. The crisis was more pressing in the major Southern and Western states of Florida, Texas, and California, all of which had fewer than 30 affordable units available for every 100 ELI residents.

According to the Illinois group’s Policy Director Bob Palmer, the state House Revenue and Finance Committee has a meeting set for Wednesday in Chicago that will take up a couple of proposals meant to expand affordable housing: one that would give developers and private realty firms a break on their property-tax assessments if they offer affordable housing, and another that would create a state companion program to the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit. They would “increase the supply of affordable housing one way or another,” Palmer said.

According to a news release put out by the group on the new study, in 2016 “Illinois received more than $40 million for the HOME Program and nearly $346 million for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, both (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) programs that support the development of affordable housing. Illinois also received $926 million for the Housing Choice Voucher program, proven to reduce housing instability and homelessness while improving child and adult well-being.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that vouchers supported 94,500 Illinoisan households in 2018 — and many more than that qualify for the program without receiving assistance.

The groups emphasized that the federal programs make an accurate 2020 U.S. Census count essential, because the state population determines the level of federal funding. “We need to count every single person in Illinois—and that includes renters, students, babies, non-citizens, people experiencing homelessness, and other populations that are hard to count,” Palmer said. “During the last census, one in every four Illinoisans went uncounted. We can’t afford to let that happen again. For each person who goes uncounted, we leave as much as $1,800 on the table. That’s money we need to build housing, assist low-income renter households, address homelessness, fix roads, put towards health care, and do so much more.”

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March 11, 2020 at 01:49PM

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