Section 8 Preservation Initiative

CRN’s Section 8 Preservation initiative includes research, public education, advocacy and technical assistance to prevent the loss of existing affordable housing stock. Highlights of CRN’s Initiative include:

  • Up to date database tracking Section 8 properties in Illinois including expiration date and status of contracts
  • Keeping state legislators up to date on properties in their districts
  • Technical assistance to tenants and community groups of buildings with at risk contracts

Section 8 Initiative Background

The federally funded project-based Section 8 program ties housing subsidy to the unit rather than the tenant. In return for guaranteed operating subsidy, landlords who contract with HUD are required to keep their units affordable. While Congress has all but eliminated funding for new Section 8 projects, it has committed to funding renewals of current contracts. Landlords, however, are not required to stay in the program, and may choose to opt out and convert to market rate rents or condominiums. Existing tenants receive vouchers which they may be able to use in their current unit if the building stays rental. Otherwise they will be competing for units in a tight rental market. Building-by-building, an invisible crisis is taking shape.

CRN’s analysis of HUD’s database shows that between 2004 and 2009, more than 18,000 units are at risk of being lost in Chicago alone. By the end of 2009, thousands of units – many on the north and south lakefront in areas that have changed significantly in the last 20 years, may be lost forever. The crisis impact suburban communities too: Northeastern Illinois, excluding Chicago, has more than 8,000 units that will expire between 2004 and 2009, and thousands more units in Downstate Illinois are also threatened.

Across the country legislators have responded to the crisis with measures to avoid opt-outs, protect tenants and build resources for preservation. CRN has been at the forefront of advancing such policies in Cook County and Illinois. As a result of CRN’s efforts:

In April, 2004, the Illinois Legislature passed the Federally Assisted Housing Preservation Act, expanding the scope of the existing act to include buildings financed with a wider variety of HUD assistance programs and expanding the rights of tenants to receive notice and explore options to buy their buildings to preserve their affordability.
In April, 2002, the Cook County Board of Assessors created Class S assessment status to extend a property tax incentive for owners of section 8 properties with expiring contracts in high risk areas to use HUD’s Mark Up to Market program to maintain extended affordability of their units.

Currently, CRN monitors the status of properties with Section 8 contracts throughout the Chicago Region and Illinois and works to keep legislators, tenants and advocates informed of properties with expiring contracts and to help them develop strategies to preserve at risk units.

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