Housing Center given tentative funding OK

Oak Park Village Board wants partner agency to review use of technology

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

It's probably no surprise that as the village celebrates the 50th anniversary of its trailblazing Fair Housing Ordinance, which encouraged racial integration in the village, the Oak Park Board of Trustees gave tentative approval to continued funding for the Oak Park Regional Housing Center.

The center promotes racial diversity in the village by encouraging renters to live in areas of the village that might otherwise become segregated.

The Housing Center, one of several so-called "partner organizations" with the village, requested $450,000 in 2018 — that's a $25,000 increase from the previous year.

The organization notes in its request that the funds would account for only 28 percent of its total budget of $1.6 million.

"This funding is critical to provide our services to the village and will allow us to deal with the loss of approximately $12,000 of (Community Development Block Grant) pass-through funds from the village as well as revenue for two vital line items, marketing and information technology," the Housing Center notes in its request.

At the April 9 meeting of the village's Reinventing Government Committee, made up of trustees, elected officials discussed some of the hurdles the Housing Center faces when pitted against more sophisticated apartment finder services online.

Trustee Deno Andrews said he recently put a rental property online, listing it with the Housing Center and online apartment finder Zillow.

The Zillow posting resulted in 50 leads, but the Housing Center didn't attract a single renter over a six-week period, Andrews said.

He said about half of the apartments listed through the Housing Center get filled by the organization. "If the Housing Center was more competitive using technology, I think that a higher percentage of those units that are listed would get rented," he said.

Trustee Simone Boutet said it makes sense to provide the additional funding to the Housing Center "to do some kind of web enhancements because I am concerned that the world does operate on the internet now, and I want to make sure they stay competitive."

Raw data only tells part of the story, though, said Trustee Bob Tucker. 

"I think some of this conversation is going to be a little less metric-driven over the next year and more of a narrative to see how we're progressing and where we're advancing … in this area of social media," he said. "How are we bringing this into the next century? It's a model that has served the community well, but how are we fixing this moving forward?"

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Neal Buer from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2018 5:07 PM

Tom, as always, well said.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 23rd, 2018 7:07 AM

The $1.6 million being spent on this housing Center could instead provide 55 families with a voucher for $2400 in rent each month. Or 110 families with a voucher of $1200 a month. That would actually put people into housing they need and help them afford it. Instead it gets wasted renting this facility and paying salaries for people doing something that is out dated and no longer needed. Wake up and start actually helping people instead of talking about how you are going to help people.

David Montgomery from Oak Park  

Posted: April 18th, 2018 8:05 AM

I'd like to see another couple of data points- the number of people contacting the Housing Center in the past year, and the number of people who found housing through the housing center in the past year. Then we could see the cost per person attracted and served in the past year.

Bert Fischer  

Posted: April 17th, 2018 5:42 PM

At this point we are use to the Housing Center exaggerating their usefulness. What troubles me is that a trustee runs his own experiment that mirrors the results every other landlord in Oak Park encounters and thinks the problem is the Housing Center doesn't have enough money to use Zillow. Zillow is free! No one is using the housing center because they are not needed.The housing center does not rent half the apartments in Oak Park. Is there anyone who really believes that?

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: April 17th, 2018 4:34 PM

Raw data is raw data. The part of the story that does not get told is that this program could expire and no one would even notice. It was a neat idea, time has passed and it is not needed anymore.

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