Chicago’s Regional Housing Initiative (RHI) is working with housing authorities to distribute affordable housing vouchers throughout the Chicagoland area. The Regional Housing Initiative brings together 10 housing authorities, with administrative bodies including the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), BRicK Partners, and CMAP. Starting in 2002 the initiative was started to optimize the process for developers building affordable housing, and to address the disproportionate distribution of funds throughout the region. Currently, the RHI is seeking developers interested in receiving vouchers to help finance new projects.
By pooling a portion of their allotted federal rental assistance vouchers, the participating housing authorities can better support the ever changing needs those in need of affordable housing. Since its founding, the RHI has helped with the development of 500 apartments in 33 developments in 22 different communities. This is achieved by matching up developers with voucher holders, ensuring new developments have tenants. One of the main goals of the RHI is to help direct developers to build in low-poverty, high-opportunity communities, where tenants could conceivably have better access to civic amenities and job opportunities.
The rental assistance vouchers are part of the Federal Housing and Urban Development’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program. This program distributes vouchers to local public housing agencies. These vouchers are then distributed to families whose income does not exceed 50% of the median income of the area. In Chicago, the vast majority of affordable housing being built is done by private developers as part of mixed-income developments.
The Regional Housing Initiative is now actively looking for developers interested in applying for rental assistance vouchers to help finance new projects.