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Our Story

A History on Which Better Futures Are Built

What started as a single-issue housing advocacy group has evolved into a broadly influential force for equity and racial justice across the greater Chicago region. Along the way we have used our position as a trusted partner to start hard conversations, build essential coalitions, influence policy, and help establish the bodies and practices that are shaping our shared future. Explore some key historical highlights below.



Founded as the Metropolitan Housing Council (MHC) by a group of concerned citizens seeking to improve the city’s housing stock through enforcing standards, collecting statistics, and promoting neighborhood planning.

Names Elizabeth Wood as first Executive Director. She serves from 1934 to 1937 before leaving to become the first Director of the newly formed Chicago Housing Authority.


Appoints D. E. Mackelmann Executive Director. Serves until 1941 then leaves to become Director of Department of Urban Renewal, Washington D.C.

Influences passage of the Illinois Housing Cooperation Act, leading to development of Chicago’s first public housing development.


Leads revival of City Plan Commission, which is subsequently integrated into city government.


Appoints Stuart Sinclair Executive Director.


Appoints Hilda Gitlin Executive Director.


Appoints Dorothy L. Rubel Executive Director. She serves until 1946.


Appoints Robert E. Merriam Executive Director. He serves until 1947 when he is elected Alderman.


Return of Dorothy L. Rubel to role of Executive Director a position she holds for the next 27 years.

Publishes groundbreaking slum clearance plan, sparking city state and federal enabling legislation, spurring City of Chicago to create the Land Clearance Commission.

Changes name to Metropolitan Housing and Planning Council (MHPC) to recognize its increased focus on land use and regional planning.


Conducts study determining that slum prevention costs less than redevelopment, a finding that advances the Urban Conservation Act.


Helps establish the Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission to guide units of local government in planning together as a region.

Chicago’s first Housing Code, developed by MHPC, goes into effect.


Committee on Urban Progress issues “Pattern for a Greater Chicago,” detailing landmark recommendations for healthy regional growth.


Commissions author Lois Wille to write “Forever Open, Clear, and Free”, an historical account of efforts to preserve Chicago’s lakefront, leading to adoption the following year of the City’s landmark Lakefront Protection Ordinance.


Appoints Lawrence Christmas Executive Director. He serves until 1979 when he leaves to becomes Executive Director of the Northeast Illinois Planning Commission.


Appoints Elizabeth L Hollander Executive Director. She serves until 1983 then leaves to become Commissioner of Planning Under Mayor Harold Washington.


Initiates the MAP 2000 project, advocating for capital reinvestment to maintain regional infrastructure, a statewide “infrastructure inventory” and a five-year capital plan in Illinois.


Appoints Mary L. Decker Executive Director, serves untill 1990, leaves to join staff of newly-elected Cook County Board President Richard Phelan as Director of Capital Facilities Planning.

Pushes for reorganization of the Regional Transportation Authority urging a greater leadership role.

Launches the Regional Partnership, a network of local leaders.


Changes name to Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) and continues historic focus on housing solutions, including a new five-year Chicago Housing Authority resident empowerment effort.

Appoints Deborah C. Stone Executive Director. She serves until 1996 then joins staff of Cook County Board President John Stroger as Coordinator of Intergovernmental Affairs.


Creates new staff position and names Jean Allard as President. Allard serves four years before rejoining legal firm Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal in 1995.


Launches the Regional Action Agenda, making a case for public and private sector cooperation across greater Chicago to promote regional vitality.


Appoints MarySue Barrett President of MPC, a role she holds for 25 years.

Partners with Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce to organize Business Leaders for Transportation, a coalition of regional employers successfully advocating for improved transportation funding and planning.


Conducts the Regional Rental Market Analysis, documenting a severe shortage of rental housing and sparking awareness of a growing regional jobs/housing mismatch.


Launches its Employer-Assisted Housing initiative, giving employers the opportunity to help employees purchase new homes near work or transit.


The City of Chicago amends its zoning ordinance for the first time since 1957, as MPC plays a key role in shaping an innovative code and helping communities use it to improve their neighborhoods.


Conducts the Campaign for Sensible Growth, leading to passage of a new state law that enables countywide stormwater planning and management.


Responding to MPC’s thirty-year push for a comprehensive planning entity, the General Assembly merges two separate organizations to create the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the first organization of its kind in the region.


Two clusters of communities in south and west Cook County, work across municipal borders on joint housing and community development plans, are awarded significant federal, state and local funding.


Illinois gains a new infrastructure financing tool thanks to MPC’s strong support of public-private partnership legislation.


Releases the Cost of Segregation, a study on the impacts of racial segregation on the region in terms of lost lives, lost income and lost potential, ushers in a new era of equity focused work at MPC.


Releases phase II of the Cost of Segregation: The Our Equitable Future Roadmap, calling for racial equity within ALL institutions in the region.


Co-host regional equity workshops for government (SSMMA), increasingly play a proactive role in assisting local government in becoming pro-equity and anti-racist.


After convening a Plan and Design Task Force of staff in 2019, MPC launches Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppressive Organizational Team. MPC’s 2020 organizational workplan, approved by the board, includes the efforts of MPC’s Equity Committee.


Appoints Darlene Oliver Hightower President and CEO.


Celebrates 90th Anniversary.