Despite Missing Out On NSP2, There’s Still Much Work To Do in Chicago Suburbs

Civic leaders and planners in the south and west Chicago suburbs were disappointed to learn that the regional collaborative proposals submitted by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) supporting their work and featured in the current issue of Shelterforce were not among the winners of the second round of Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP2) grants announced by HUD on January 14.

But they have little time to despair because in November 2009 the Collaboratives were awarded NSP 1 funding of about $12 million through Cook County. They had hoped their joint efforts would receive a second infusion of resources to help further the idea of combining forces rather than competing to push holistic, transit-oriented development and economic stimulus in neighboring but often socially disjointed communities.

Robin Snyderman, vice president of community development for the Metropolitan Planning Council (a staunch supporter of the collaborative regional proposals), said the applicants were well positioned to leverage NSP 2 funding combat high levels of foreclosure (among other things), but the competition was stiff.

Only 56 NSP2 proposals out of 482 applicants were funded with a total of close to $2 billion made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Robin Snyderman said the larger collaboration efforts are continuing regardless and the work put into the NSP 2 proposals will continue to bear fruit in other ways.

Snyderman stressed that the $12 million plus in NSP1 funds allocated through the county are crucial to keeping the effort going, stepping up economic development activity in the communities, and creating the infrastructure and track record to take on more redevelopment in the months and years ahead.

She said planners felt a “sharp pang of disappointment” to hear the innovative and regional NSP 2 proposal submitted by CMAP was not funded, especially after HUD secretary Shaun Donovan had personally complimented the suburbs’ inter-jurisdictional approach to foreclosures. Though several other collaborative applications shepherded by regional planning organizations in other parts of the country were also denied NSP 2 funds, Chicago area planners still see this approach as the “wave of the future,” according to Snyderman. In a recent blog, she noted that two collaborative applications from the Chicago area have already been submitted to the Dept. of Energy for Energy Efficiency (DOE) and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program.

Aside from the NSP2 stimulus funds, the suburban collaborations can also still apply for specific funds in HUD’s approved 2010 budget and proposed 2011 budget, which continue to encourage such sub-regional coordination and capacity building. Snyderman noted that the redevelopment which will be take place with the NSP 1 money will make future applications much stronger:

“Over the last year, as they worked together on intergovernmental agreements and leveraging strong partnerships, the suburban collaboratives have been selling an idea, a great idea and inspirational idea, but still an idea.”

Snyderman added:

“In a year they’re going to have some new homes, new neighborhoods, new opportunities near transit to show for it. We’re doing everything we can to make sure the incentives are out there to make sure people keep going down this road. We joke that collaboration is an unnatural act — it takes a lot of discipline and diplomacy, but it definitely creates efficiencies for the municipalities themselves and all the entities who want to do business with them.”

Kari Lydersen is a staff writer out of The Washington Post midwest bureau and also freelances for publications including The Chicago Reporter and The Progressive. She is the author of three books, including “Revolt on Goose Island” (Melville House Press) released in June 2009. She also teaches Community News at Columbia College and teaches youth journalism in a non-profit program.


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