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The 500 Block of Central Park Before and After

The city of Chicago’s Troubled Building Initiative was selected by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Terwilliger Center for Housing as the winner of the 2016 Robert C. Larson Housing Policy Leadership Award, an annual recognition of the innovative ways the public sector is addressing the country’s affordable housing crisis.

The Chicago initiative, honored during a ceremony at the 2016 ULI Fall Meeting in Dallas, was chosen by a jury of national housing industry leaders. The housing initiative was selected from a group of finalist policies and initiatives, including the Arlington County, Virginia, Affordable Housing Master Plan; the state of Iowa’s Iowa Green Streets Criteria; and New York City’s Bifurcated Structures for 80/20 or Mixed-Income Financing.

Through the Troubled Buildings Initiative, multiple municipal agencies work with well-established community-based groups to move buildings from code enforcement to improved physical condition and management rather than to abandonment and demolition. These efforts have preserved more than 16,000 rental and for-sale units across the city.

Participating municipal agencies include not only the Department of Housing and Economic Development and the Department of Buildings, but also the Police Department, Department of Law, Department of Administrative Hearings, Department of Family and Support Services, and Department of Water Management.

“This housing effort includes several city agencies working with community-based groups—a highly effective public/private partnership,” said J. Ronald Terwilliger, chairman of Terwilliger Pappas Multifamily Partners in Atlanta. “Through this innovative program, Chicago has acted aggressively to acquire and improve run-down buildings that pose a threat to communities. Instead of being torn down, these vacant and abandoned structures are rehabbed to provide low-cost housing.”

“Far too often, local regulation is impeding the urgent need to expand the supply of workforce housing,” added Stockton Williams, executive director of the ULI Terwilliger Center. “The city of Chicago’s success shows the substantial redevelopment benefits that smarter local policy can achieve.”

The Larson Awards recognize exemplary state and local programs, policies, and practices that support the production, rehabilitation, or preservation of workforce and affordable housing. The program was created in 2011 with the purpose of honoring the legacy of the late Robert C. Larson, former ULI Foundation chairman and longtime ULI trustee. The Larson Awards are part of the ULI Terwilliger Center’s housing awards program, which honors developments and programs that provide affordable, well-designed, and accessible housing choices for people with a mix of incomes, including families earning up to 120 percent of the area median income.

One of the goals when founding the Terwilliger Center was to “show the critical role that housing plays in achieving economic prosperity and a high quality of life—both for individuals and communities,” said Terwilliger. “If a family is constantly worried about housing, then being healthy, getting educated, and staying employed is never much of an option. A family with a stable housing situation is a family with a chance. Housing is the foundation from which everything else takes root.”

The program recognizes states and localities that undertake a broad range of policy and administrative initiatives to support housing affordability. This can take the form of regulatory or administrative changes such as allowing higher densities and waiving fees, or programs that provide grants or financing assistance. Policy programs are judged on a number of factors, including impact on the supply of workforce housing, comprehensiveness of the tools and programs employed, involvement of public/private partnerships, and the ability to leverage private and nonprofit funds, among other criteria.

Members of the Larson Awards jury were Beverly Bates, senior vice president of development, the Community Builders Inc.; Dara Kovel, vice president of multifamily housing, Connecticut Housing Finance Authority; Linda Mandolini, president, Eden Housing Inc.; Meghan Patenaude, senior policy adviser, J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families; Pamela Hughes Patenaude, president, J. Ronald Terwilliger Foundation for Housing America’s Families; Mike Pitchford, president and chief executive officer, Community Preservation and Development Corp.; Joe Reilly, president and chief executive officer, the Community Development Trust; and J. Ronald Terwilliger, chairman emeritus, Trammell Crow Residential.