To address the region’s housing challenges, BRicK Partners, Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), and ten Public Housing Authorities (PHA) in the 6 County region are collaborating through the Regional Housing Initiative (RHI) to support affordable and mixed-income housing developments in “opportunity areas”.

Since 2002, the public housing authorities participating in RHI have pooled a portion of their available rental assistance vouchers to provide long-term support for the rehabilitation or construction of multifamily, affordable rental homes in opportunity communities across the region. That means RHI can adapt to the changing housing market and economic climate more flexibly than current federal funding flows permit. For example, despite the growing need for affordable housing in the suburbs, the Chicago and Cook County Housing Authorities receive higher levels of voucher subsidies than the suburban housing authorities like DuPage HA and Kendall HA. By allowing multiple housing authorities to pool their resources, RHI created a mechanism through which a suburban housing development can receive subsidies even if the local housing authority lacks resources.

This innovative structure has led to the development of hundreds of apartments in dozens of developments in many communities around the region. The Chicago and Cook County Housing Authorities see clear benefits in contributing vouchers to other communities in the region because wait list families from all ten geographies are offered expanded housing opportunities. This shared list is helping more low-income families find homes in attractive communities across the region. It also removes some of the administrative inefficiencies and barriers experienced by participating housing authorities.

Description of the Regional Housing Initiative
Each PHA submits their Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) wait list to RHI. As units become available in the region, applicants on the wait lists are contacted by RHI to determine their eligibility to live in the available subsidized unit within the region. If eligible, this allows the applicant to live in a subsidized unit while they wait for their HCV application at their “home” housing authority to reach the top of the wait list and be called in to receive a voucher. With many applicants waiting years for that application to move to the top, the RHI subsidized unit provides the same level of assistance their voucher provides – but much sooner. That works out to thousands of dollars in savings they normally would have spent towards market rent in their unsubsidized unit. It also could provide a home of their own in cases where the applicant did not have their own unit! A win-win situation!