SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – Illinois state representatives passed a proposal late Thursday night to create a new statewide program to reclaim vacant or abandoned properties and make them into new homes for people in need. Sponsors hope this idea can help prevent crime and improve safety in communities of concentrated poverty across Illinois. Rep. Will Davis
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – Illinois state representatives passed a proposal late Thursday night to create a new statewide program to reclaim vacant or abandoned properties and make them into new homes for people in need.
Sponsors hope this idea can help prevent crime and improve safety in communities of concentrated poverty across Illinois.
Rep. Will Davis (D-Hazel Crest) says the stain of historic discrimination in housing against Black Illinoisans cannot be erased. However, he argues this approach of using public and private investments to rebuild abandoned homes can help break the cycle of poverty in many low-income neighborhoods.
“We are indeed that backbone. I know it’s tough for some to admit, but we are indeed that backbone,” Davis said. “When we help those who cannot help themselves, those who are underserved, then you see the benefits all over the state.”
The Illinois Housing Development Authority would be tasked with running the rehab program to reclaim properties and encourage future investments. Democrats say this could provide low-income families with more affordable housing options in modern buildings that are safe.
Republicans quickly pointed out that a portion of the bill suggests the project should be funded by $30 million in state appropriations. However, if the state couldn’t cover that full amount, the bill language said the Housing Development Authority could utilize funding from the federal American Rescue Plan.
“This appears to set up an obligation for the program to happen even if we don’t appropriate the money,” said Rep. Tom Demmer (R-Dixon). “If we don’t appropriate money, ARPA funds will pay for it. I guess my question is, if we choose not to appropriate, is it required that ARPA cover that difference?”
Davis said this bill only starts a conversation about using the federal dollars to launch the program. The proposed pilot program would launch in 10 communities spread out across the Chicago metro areas, south suburbs, central Illinois, northwestern Illinois, and Southern Illinois. The pilot program could run from July 1, 2022 to December 31, 2023.
Still, Republicans argued private developers won’t have interest in acquiring properties in low-income communities because it raises the rehab cost well above the amount charged for selling, renting, or commercially using a new property.
“If we were looking at the underlying issue and got government out of the way, in a lot of these cases we wouldn’t be talking about spending $20-$30 million on a project,” said Rep. Tony McCombie (R-Savanna).
Davis agreed that the government could step out of the way in some cases. However, he argued that government is needed right now to help lift up low-income communities.
“It is what we are supposed to do,” Davis said. “We pass a huge budget that expends a lot of resources to help a lot of these communities. Now, I understand that many on that side don’t want to admit the money that gets spent in their districts. But I’m willing to talk about the money that gets spent in my communities because it’s what I advocate for. It’s why those people sent me here to try to do what I can to try to help.”
This bill passed on a partisan 74-35 vote. The plan now heads to the Senate for consideration.
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