Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund (Trust Fund) was created by City Council ordinance on June 28, 1989, to provide rental assistance to residents most in need of affordable housing. Incorporated in February 1990 as a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, the Trust Fund is governed by a 15 member Board of Directors appointed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council.
Origins of the Trust Fund
Establishment of the Trust Fund was sparked by demolition of single room occupancy hotels on the west end of the City, at the corner of Madison and Jefferson streets, to create the Presidential Towers. Developers of Presidential Towers were criticized by housing activists because of the lack of low and moderate units in the proposal.
In the late 1980s, a coalition formed of stakeholders representing the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, the Statewide Housing Action Coalition, the Balanced Growth Coalition, and Chicago 1992 Committee. With support of Mayor Harold Washington, the group sought to establish a city trust fund utilizing funds to be donated by the developer in lieu of the creation of on-site affordable units. Seeking to refinance their loan, developers met with the city and the coalition in January 1987. It was agreed that the developers would pay $5 million into a fund that would officially become the Trust Fund two years later.
Trust Fund Through the Years
1990: Our First Program
The Trust Fund began its first and largest program, the Rental Subsidy Program, in 1990. Its focus then and now is to provide annual subsidies to rental properties to reduce rents for citizens who make less than 30 percent of area median income (AMI). The program assists a wide array of household types, including low-income wage earners, homeless, seniors, single parent households, large families and people with disabilities.
First Year Overview
In its first year, the Trust Fund provided $299,688 to assist 116 units with rental subsidies. Despite this success, the Trust Fund faced financial difficulties because the developers of the Presidential Towers failed to complete the project. After depositing the initial $3.2 million, the Trust Fund received no further payments. Interest on the initial deposit amounted to only $100,000 a year. To make up for this loss of funds, the Trust Fund was successful in their application for two $1 million congressionally earmarked grants in 1991 and 1992.
1992: New Initiatives
In 1992, the Trust Fund developed two new initiatives.
- HEALTH (Helping Establish Affordable Long Term Housing) provided cash grants or low/no interest loans to developers to offset operating costs utilizing a $2.6 million grant from funding designated by the City of Chicago’s federal HOME allocation. Cost savings were then used to subsidize a percentage of the units over the length of the mortgage.
- Affordable Rents for Chicago (ARC) programmed an additional $2.6 million of federal HOME and provided one-time, no interest loans/grants to residential developments in multi-unit buildings, with the provision that they lower rents over the length of the mortgage. ARC became the foundation for MAUI Program investments in later years.
1993: Affordable Housing Plan Spurs Growth
Under the City of Chicago’s first 5-Year Affordable Housing Plan, the Trust Fund received a $20 million commitment in 1993 to be expended over five years. This enabled the Trust Fund to more than quadruple RSP units from 328 in 1993 to 1,438 in 1994.
The Trust Fund was and remains the largest City-funded rental assistance program in the nation.
1995: Federal Grant Helps Launch New Program
In 1995, the Trust Fund applied for and received a $2.52 million grant from the federal government which allowed it to launch the Supportive Housing Program for the Continuum of Care (SHP), a program that provides permanent housing to homeless individuals with disabilities. The Trust Fund was successful in two additional applications for SHP funding and created a total of 399 new units for those who are disabled and homeless.
Note: In 2010, the Trust Fund transitioned the HUD grants to the sponsor, non-profit social service providers as the grants were fully utilized and the units were fully occupied.
1998: More New Initiatives
The Trust Fund established two new initiatives in 1998.
- Rental Emergency Assistance Loan Program (REAL) was a $300,000, 2-year pilot program that promoted housing stability through the provision of zero interest loans to low-income renters facing an unforeseen emergency that would impact their ability to pay rent.
- New Start / New Home was a 2-year initiative in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Chicago Housing Authority to assist welfare-to-work families. Participants received benefit of the RSP subsidy for the first six months. Then, those in good standing were eligible to receive a Section 8 voucher.
2002: Putting Families First
In 2002, the Trust Fund initiated Families First in partnership with the Chicago Department of Human Services to assist very low-income families experiencing homelessness. In conjunction with the Chicago 10-year Plan to End Homelessness, the initiative provided social services and permanent housing for more than 25 families in its first year. Chicago was the first City in the nation to develop a Plan to End Homelessness. The Trust Fund serves as a partner in this city-wide effort.
2005: Trust Fund Is Model, Gains More Funds
An important development took place for the Trust Fund in 2005, when the State of Illinois passed legislation for the Rental Housing Support Program (RHSP) based on the model of the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund. The Trust Fund and the City of Chicago worked with community housing advocates to pass legislation that was projected to raise $10 million annually. Through State legislation based on population, approximately 42 percent of the funds developed are earmarked for the City of Chicago. The Trust Fund was named by the City of Chicago as the Local Administering Agent (LAA).
From RHSP annual funding, the Trust Fund designated $4 million to assist with Chicago’s Plan to End Homelessness, and created the Homeless Dedicated Initiative. Also in 2005, the City of Chicago allocated $5 million over five years to the Trust Fund, from revenues received from the Skyway. A portion of the funding was designated to create the Street-to-Home Initiative (since retitled Homeward Bound).
Over the years, the Trust Fund has stayed true to its mission to provide affordable housing to Chicago’s low-income citizens. It strives to develop new partnerships and opportunities to create opportunities for affordable housing for those at-risk of homelessness.