Innnovative development improves housing opportunities in the south suburbs
Cook County Government
Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle and Mayor Welch at the ribbon cutting
Authored in collaboration with Anna Tenutta, Research Assistant
The last few years have been shaped by many events and forces—and while the foreclosure recovery and financial crisis continue to steal the headlines—there is another trend to pay attention to: the suburbanization of poverty. How can communities, advocates, and policymakers address this shift and serve the growing number of families living in poverty in the suburbs? One interesting attempt to address this trend is the Country Club Hills Wellness Center. Thanks to support from partners including the Regional Housing Initiative (RHI), the Housing Authority of Cook County, and Illinois Housing Development Authority, Turnstone Development and South Suburban PADS (Public Action to Deliver Shelter), an organization devoted to providing services and shelter to the homeless, made this goal a reality at the grand opening of the Country Club Hills Wellness Center last week. The Wellness Center offers new construction apartments and amenities for homeless households. Research shows that providing homes for the homeless prior to emergency intervention often results in better long-term improvements in healthcare, education and employment – all at a lower cost to taxpayers. Stabilizing people’s lives and housing situations has benefits that include better public spaces, improved safety, and positive public health outcomes.
The Regional Housing Initiative in Metropolitan Chicago, a one-of-a-kind collaboration between the Metropolitan Planning Council, eight housing authorities, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Illinois Housing Development Authority, is part of a federally-funded pilot to improve quality of life for low-income households, by providing operating subsidies to residential housing developers who are chosen by a competitive, regional process. RHI worked with South Suburban PADs and Turnstone Development –both well-established organizations in the south suburbs—as they developed the Country Club Hills Wellness Center, which houses 77 studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments for families and individuals who are homeless or formerly homeless.
Located on 167th street in Country Club Hills, between I-57 and I-80, near retail and public transit, the Wellness Center offers services, job training, health care, a computer center, and a wealth of amenities to its residents. The close proximity to a 454-acre outlet mall in the works also means residents have access to jobs close to home. The Wellness Center is a crucial development--the largest of its kind in the Chicago suburbs-- in meeting some of the local demand for quality, supportive housing. We laud this beautiful, exciting development and look forward to encouraging other innovative strategies to address the increasing suburbanization of poverty.