Joined by members of the community, the Interfaith Housing Development Corporation and other County officials (the Bureau of Economic Development, the Housing Authority of Cook County, the Cook County Land Bank Authority, and the Justice Advisory Council), President Preckwinkle broke ground at the planned site of Fifth Avenue Apartments, a 72-unit affordable housing development located in Maywood, IL.
The building will be comprised of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom residential units along with interior and exterior shared community spaces for resident use. It also includes approximately 5,500 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, currently slated for development into a grocery store, addressing the lack of this amenity in the area. The five-story development will provide affordable housing for households at or below 60 percent of area median income (AMI). 16 of the units are designated for households at or below 30% AMI; 28 units are for households at or below 50% AMI; and 28 units will support households at or below 60% AMI. 19 of these units will be targeted to special needs populations, including eight units set aside for homeless veterans and 11 units for tenants selected from the Illinois State Referral Network. The residence was designed with several sustainable features and will achieve National Green Building Standard’s Bronze Level upon completion.
“Investment in affordable housing is a critical component in our work to build vital communities throughout Cook County,” stated Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “The need is growing by the day while resources are diminishing. This project represents another step in the right direction as we address this need moving forward.”
During remarks, President Preckwinkle along with other County officials announced the formation of an Affordable Housing Task Force launching in Spring 2020. The group will be charged with establishing priorities and solutions to increase the supply of affordable housing in Cook County with a focus on the suburbs. It will include individuals from Cook County government, as well as those with expertise in housing policy, advocacy, financing, development and those with lived experience in affordable housing. The final list of members will be announced in mid-March and meet on a bi-monthly basis thereafter.
“This diverse group of experts will lay the foundation for Cook County’s affordable housing agenda as we enter the new decade,” said Xochitl Flores, Cook County Bureau Chief of Economic Development. “The recommendations produced through this process will build on the work already undertaken by the County, and look toward new, innovative solutions.”
Since 2011, the Preckwinkle Administration has placed an additional 4,715 units of affordable housing using federal funding and local partnerships. Cook County has also implemented progressive housing discrimination protections that go beyond what is required by the Fair Housing Act – most notably the source-of-income and criminal background protections now afforded by the Cook County Human Rights Ordinance. Additionally, the County has worked with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on a regional fair housing plan, the first plan of its kind in regard to its scope.
During this same time period, the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC) has leveraged over $1.1 billion dollars of federal funding to provide rental assistance to low-income residents of suburban Cook County and now serves over 17,000 households. In terms of capital investment, HACC has leveraged over $200 million in public and private equity to rehabilitate affordable housing sites across the suburbs leading to over 1500 units of affordable housing being preserved since construction began in 2015.
Despite these efforts, the need for affordable housing remains great. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, 28% of the renter households in Illinois are extremely low-income ($24, 600 for a family of four). Renters spending more than 30% of their income on housing costs and utilities are considered cost-burdened; those spending more than half of their income are severely cost-burdened. Locally, the latest report from the DePaul Institute of Housing Studies points to over 180,000 households in Cook County alone that are currently cost-burdened by their housing payments.
“The issue of affordable housing is being lifted to a higher platform at the county level,” said Richard Monocchio, Executive Director of HACC. “We want all of our residents to be afforded the promise of equal opportunity and a better life. Ensuring that all of us have a safe, decent, and affordable place to call home is the foundation needed to reach that promise. We are committed to finding ways to make that possible for all Cook County families.”