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Housing Center given tentative funding OK

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

April 17th, 2018 3:06 PM

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