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Here’s our bipartisan proposal for creating more affordable housing in Illinois

The Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit could lead to the construction of 3,500 homes and apartments annually and the creational of 17,150 jobs over 10 years.

The affordable housing stock in Chicago and other Illinois cities has been dwindling for years, write the authors.
AP Photos

These are incredibly challenging times for middle-class and working families across our state. The COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating aftermath are only adding to the pain.

In the city of Chicago and Illinois’ more populous areas, the housing crisis is all too real and frightening. We have been battling a dwindling stock of affordable housing for years. What rented for $700 a month a few years ago now costs $1,500 a month. Property taxes have quadrupled. People have jobs and the incomes to live somewhere reasonably priced, but there is nowhere to turn.

In the more rural areas of Illinois, the problems are almost reversed, yet equally frustrating. Populations have declined and jobs are scarce. Families with some security stay in their homes for many years, and developers simply do not have the means or the resources to build affordable homes and apartments. Those who must find a place to live often end up traveling long ways from home to make ends meet.

The pandemic has made all of these problems worse. We face a massive eviction crisis, with landlords owed thousands of dollars in back rent and barely making it themselves, and too many people facing homelessness. We know that when people struggle to find a safe, affordable place to call home, the rest of their lives are chaotic: their physical and mental health declines, their children struggle in school, and it’s hard to keep a job — if they can find one.

Despite all this, we are coming together as a Democrat and Republican in the Illinois Legislature to push for the hope we see ahead.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in rental and landlord assistance and other aid is on the way from Washington, and we will work together to ensure that it reaches the people most in need today. To ensure that we are investing in our state’s affordable housing future for tomorrow, we are pushing for the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit.

The federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit has helped finance many affordable homes and apartments in recent years, but the need far outweighs the available resources. Many good developments that need just a little funding support to get off the ground remain stagnant.

In House Bill 3123, we are proposing the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit to build on the federal aid, providing that needed boost to private housing developers ready to go to work. We estimate building 3,500 homes or apartments every year through the program, supporting 17,150 jobs over the next 10 years and creating more than $1 billion in extra income for Illinoisans over a decade.

Illinois would join 20 states now using the tax credit to match more federal funds for building affordable housing, and recent congressional action means there are even more federal aid dollars available for these projects.

The best news? While the tax credit comes with an estimated annual $35 million price tag, Illinois will see zero expenses until the projects are complete and the housing occupied. We will see the direct benefits of today’s investment at no cost to taxpayers until more people have a place to call home. We must credit the leadership of the Illinois Housing Council and its coalition of supporting partners for helping us push for this long-term solution.

We view many of our problems and their solutions differently. But we are in complete agreement on affordable housing: it’s time to give more Illinoisans help to live better lives, and the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit is an easy investment in that shared vision for a better future.

Healing from the pandemic starts at home. We’re ready to fight in Springfield for making sure more Illinoisans have that affordable place to call their own.

State Rep. Delia Ramirez is a Democrat from Chicago. State Rep. Tom Demmer is a Republican from Dixon.

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