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Creating Affordable Housing

In Illinois, hundreds of thousands of people are left homeless or are at risk of losing their homes because our state lacks enough affordable housing.

To prevent people from becoming homeless and to create affordable housing for people who are homeless, CCH launched a statewide housing campaign, It Takes a Home to Raise a Child, in 1998. The decade-long housing campaign created more resources for emergency housing assistance and more units of permanent affordable housing.

Housing is considered unaffordable if its monthly cost is more than 30 percent of one’s monthly income. According to a 2006 census survey, 1.5 million households in Illinois pay more than 30 percent of their income each month for housing. Of this, 722,000 Illinois households allocate more than half their monthly income for housing. Spending so much on housing means that many families do not have enough money left over for utility bills and other household costs — much less sudden emergencies, like a hospital visit or a death in the family.

That so many people in Illinois are a paycheck away from losing their home is not surprising given the rising cost of housing statewide. The minimum wage in Illinois rose to $8.25 an hour in July 2010, but the statewide “housing wage” in 2010 is more than double that, at $17.44 an hour. That is how much a household would need to earn to spend no more than 30 percent of earnings on housing, per the $907 average Illinois rent for a two-bedroom apartment. In metropolitan Chicago, the housing wage is $19.54! (For more details, see the annual Out of Reach report, posted online by Housing Action Illinois and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.)

Thanks to the CCH housing campaign, Illinois funds a cost-effective homeless prevention grant program and a rent subsidy program. In 10 years, more than 95,000 Illinois families have been helped by prevention grants. The Illinois Rental Housing Support Program offers housing subsidies for 2,400 low-income families across Illinois. And in 2009, state leaders agreed for the first time to fund affordable housing projects through the Illinois capital budget, dedicating $130 million to such developments.