URBANA — Cunningham Township officials are pushing the Urbana City Council to expand subsidized housing and educate tenants on eviction and relocation programs as they deal with the “unintended consequences” of an ordinance currently on the books.
Township Supervisor Danielle Chynoweth called for the housing expansion following a presentation on housing quality and insecurity for rental-assistance recipients in the area.
After an Urbana property owner lost their rental registration last November, Chynoweth said, her office was flooded with low-income families looking for help with emergency relocation or assistance.
The response from the city and township officials to get former tenants re-housed, Chynoweth said, revealed the “unintended consequences” of an ordinance that she helped pass while on the city council.
“The ordinance right now could lead to the forced relocation of tenants whose landlords don’t qualify for city programs,” Chynoweth said. “It’s my understanding there might be future issues.”
As a response to the emergency last year, Chynoweth’s office ran the addresses of current residents receiving assistance with the city’s database of registered rental housing.
Township intern Allan Axelrod found a significant over-representation of participants in the lowest class of housing, as measured through an A-F grading system.
“In our report, we talk about just why it’s important to look at class D housing and to understand that there might be a relationship between quality of housing and our participants’ housing-security needs,” Axelrod said.
Along with a request that the council look at the current rental-housing registration ordinance for possible amendments, Chynoweth also encouraged aldermen to push the Housing Authority of Champaign County to use some funds it has in savings to build more subsidized housing or expand housing vouchers.
With more than 1,100 rental units vacant in Urbana, per the latest American Community Survey data, there is “more than enough to house the number of known homeless households,” Chynoweth said.
She said the city should also extend its outreach and education on tenants’ rights and programs that could help them avoid eviction or relocation.
But Chynoweth also said the city should be creative when it comes to housing people.
“Can we look at using properties we purchase and using market rate to subsidize a certain number of units?” Chynoweth asked. “We need to reallocate more funds. It’s about how we effectively match the resource with the needs in the community.”