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Housing Collaboratives

South, west, and northwest

Housing Program

An MPC Housing Program case study

Program background

The idea for interjurisdictional collaboration around housing issues began to flourish in 2008, as the housing market plummeted and communities in the Chicago region started to grapple with foreclosures. Many communities had neither staff dedicated to housing nor access to resources sufficient to address the abundance of vacant and abandoned properties. Such was the case in South and West Cook County, Illinois. Several of the towns in these sub-regions were identified by Cook County as areas of greatest need based on a high foreclosure rate. Modeled on pre-existing examples, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus (MMC) and Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) worked with municipal leaders from south and west Cook County to create two formal municipal collaborations. Financial support from The Chicago Community Trust, Grand Victoria Foundation and the Field Foundation allowed the Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative and the West Cook County Housing Collaborative to each hire a housing coordinator. Technical assistance from MMC and MPC helped the municipalities develop a coordinated strategy to tackle the foreclosure crisis, including drafting and passing the necessary intergovernmental agreements and board/council resolutions to create the Collaboratives, fundraising, and assisting in the coordinator hiring process. In conjunction with the Collaboratives’ housing coordinators, MMC and MPC helped establish strategic priorities and a robust workplan.

In 2011, five northwest suburbs created a similar partnership with the assumption that working collaboratively could allow them to tackle their own unique set of housing challenges. While the northwest suburbs were not as distressed from the housing collapse as the other Cook County subregions, the municipalities were interested in stemming the condo foreclosure crisis and implementing a program for their growing senior population. Though the Collaboratives all have different structures, governance, and staffing arrangements, they are all driven by a common goal of efficiently leveraging public and private resources for housing and community development initiatives.

How it works

Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative

The Chicago Southland Collaborative formed in 2008 in an effort to coordinate neighborhood stabilization efforts across the south suburbs in the wake of the foreclosure crisis. With 23 participating communities, the Collaborative has encouraged municipalities to think in new and innovative ways to tackle the economic reality of limited financial resources and staff capacity. The Collaborative’s full-time staff person currently serves with the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, to liaise with communities in developing shared, cross-border solutions to housing challenges in the subregion.


  • In 2010, the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association was awarded a $2.4 Million U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development Challenge Grant award. Part of the award helped the Chicago Southland Collaborative seed the South Suburban Land Bank and Development Authority that is working to facilitate the redevelopment of acquired properties; the Southland Community Development Loan Fund that is financing predevelopment and acquisition strategies in transit-oriented development areas; the Loan Consortium that is serving as a technical and financial resource for development projects; and the GIS Atlas that provides access to extensive layers of data (such as zoning, infrastructure, crime, foreclsoures, vacant and rental housing, etc.) and analyzes trends for planning purposes.
  • Secured $4.4 in grant funding for four towns to rehab 41 homes for home ownership through the Ill. Dept. of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
  • In conjunction with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Chicago Southland Collaborative developed a Housing Investment Tool to rank/evaluate projects for funding, assist communities to further develop their project ideas and to identify and correct weaknesses in their redevelopment plans, code enforcement and pre-sale process.

West Cook County Housing Collaborative

From its beginning in 2009, the West Cook Collaborative has worked to expand housing opportunities and strengthen neighborhoods in west suburban Cook County, and was originally formed in response to the housing foreclosure crisis. Recognizing the value of collaboration, the Collaborative communities have continued working together to transform distressed properties into quality, affordable home ownership and rental housing options. Bellwood, Berwyn, Forest Park, Maywood and Oak Park, with the help of the nonprofit coordinator IFF, have been successful in leveraging funding from a variety of public and private sources. The Collaborative’s West Cook Advantage allows qualified buyers to receive $10,000 in buyers’ assistance for newly renovated single-family homes. The Transit-Oriented Development Loan Fund offers three competitive financing tools to support projects in the early predevelopment stages through acquisition: Project Initiation Loan, Predevelopment Loan, and Acquisition Loan.


  • In 2010-11, the West Cook Collaborative rehabbed a 26-unit foreclosed building in Maywood, using a $3.2 million Neighborhood Stabilization Program grant from Cook County. The Collaborative sold the apartment building to a nonprofit organization to own and operate. Half of the units are affordable to very low income households, with the other half affordable to moderate-income households.
  • The Collaborative secured funding for up to 100 affordable homeownership opportunities through a $4.3 million grant from Ill. Dept. of Commerce and Opportunity.
  • The Collaborative received a $2.9 million Sustainable Communities Challenge Grant from the Department of Housing and Economic Development to establish a Transit-Oriented Development fund that will support the creation of approximately 100 multifamily units.

Northwest Suburban Housing Collaborative

Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Rolling Meadows, Mount Prospect and Palatine came together in 2011 to form the Northwest Collaborative. In the same year, the Collaborative received a Local Technical Assistance grant through the Chicago Metropolitan Agency Planning to conduct a housing supply and demand analysis across all five municipalities as a part of Homes for a Changing Region. The Homes report recommended working to address the needs of an increasingly aging population, so the Collaborative hired Valerie S. Kretchmer and Associates to complete a senior housing needs assessment and strategic plan. The firm found that most seniors from the area prefer to age in place and stay in their homes; the Northwest Collaborative is now prioritizing activities that promote aging in place across the five municipalities.


Created a senior handyman program—modeled after Rolling Meadows’ program—administered by the North West Housing Partnership across the five municipalities as an aging-in-place strategy for a growing senior population.


Metropolitan Mayors Caucus

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  • Goal

    To increase capacity for municipalities to address subregional housing and community development challenges

  • Target

    Municipal staff and elected officials

  • Financing

    Various public and private funding sources

  • Lessons learned

    Even if the resources, staff capacity and political will existed to allow all suburbs to individually develop, implement and monitor sound housing and community development strategies, going it alone often is not the best approach. Housing markets transcend municipal boundaries, yet federal funding formulas and local policies generally parcel out decision-making on a town-by-town basis—a carryover from the federal government’s traditional funding relationship with large, urban cities. Unfortunately, given the decentralized nature of today’s challenges, this funding structure is no longer functional, and often results in inefficient and ineffective development, missed opportunities to leverage adjacent public and private investment, squandered resources and isolated neighborhoods that continue to struggle. It is both impractical and impossible for communities to tackle everything on their own. Interjurisdictional collaboration is an approach that can help communities address their immediate challenges, plan together for their futures and achieve more efficient and effective community development results.