Park Forest’s Eastgate neighborhood.


In earlier years, Eastgate might not have received significant attention from state and federal initiatives designed to stabilize neighborhoods. Even though the Village has identified it as an area of concern, federal funds were not typically granted to smaller municipalities, or resources were dispersed over a broader area. Thanks to concerted collaborative efforts in the south suburbs, however, Eastgate has been able to attract investment from disparate sources. Funds from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program have been used to demolish nine vacant and blighted homes, while the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity IKE Disaster Recovery funds will demolish an additional 23 homes The Metropolitan Mayors Caucus focused on the Eastgate neighborhood in its Homes for a Changing Region report to recommend a concept plan for redevelopment.  The Village’s Crime Free Housing Ordinance and Vacant Property Ordinance have enabled the Village to reduce crime in the neighborhood and take derelict property owners to court to require compliance with code violations.  By focusing different resources on one neighborhood, such as with Eastgate, these programs improve the likelihood of making a difference on the ground since they are working towards the same goals and amplifying each other’s efforts.


Municipalities and housing collaboratives across the region have developed new tools over the past several years that help them to identify priority areas like Eastgate and target those areas with an assortment of resources. In a time when state and local governments are facing severe budget constraints and austerity has become the watchword in Washington, it’s critical that organizations working to address the foreclosure crisis are able to maximize the impact of their public dollars. By piloting new ways of targeting scarce resources to address regional needs, the housing collaboratives in south and west Cook County are finding new ways to attract funds to areas that badly need them, even in times of economic restraint.


An understanding of what’s currently going on in a region—one that encompasses broader regional trends as well as street-level local needs—helps lay the groundwork for identifying areas where investment could have an impact. The Homes for a Changing Region project, coordinated by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus (MMC), the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), and the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), has contributed to communities’ understanding of the challenges they face, as well as the opportunities they have to prosper. Homes for a Changing Region provides technical assistance to subregional groups of municipalities to help them develop forward-looking housing action plans, including both regional recommendations and site-specific plans. Homes for a Changing Region reports have been released for communities in the West Cook County Housing Collaborative (Bellwood, Berwyn, Forest Park, Maywood and Oak Park), as well as for municipalities who are members of the Chicago Southland Housing and Community Development Collaborative (Hazel Crest, Lansing, Olympia Fields, and Park Forest). A Homes for a Changing Region assessment is underway in the municipalities of the Northwest Suburban Housing Collaborative (Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Rolling Meadows).