McHenry County, located northwest of the City of Chicago, is the fastest-growing county in the State of Illinois and a newly-designated urban county.
The McHenry County Consolidated Plan presents a holistic approach for housing and community development in this urban/rural area. It includes an Action Plan for expending $1,763,000 of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership Program funds in 1995. These funds will primarily be spent on housing, public services and infrastructure improvements.
The process for developing the Consolidated Plan relied heavily on focus
group meetings with affordable housing advocates, service providers (e.g.,
elderly, homeless, developmentally disabled), builders, townships, local
government officials, and special districts (libraries, park districts). Six
public meetings from March through May 1995 and three focus group forums were
held with services providers and governmental jurisdictions. These public
meetings and focus groups were held very early in the process in order to enable
maximum citizen participation in the development of the draft Consolidated Plan.
The Focus Groups were held to assess the specific needs of each selected group.
Once the Focus Groups had completed their Needs Assessment, the Planning and
Development Department developed recommended Strategies to address those Needs.
The draft Consolidated Plan was made available for public comment in mid-June
for 30 days, at which time it was made available at several locations for
review. Two public hearings were held on July 6, 1995 to solicit additional
McHenry County is approximately 611 square miles in area, with an estimated current population of 215,945 persons (July 1994 Census Bureau estimate). The growth of the County has been increasing at a rapid rate, due to highway and commuter rail accessibility to the Chicago Metropolitan Area. The incorporated areas of the County consist of thirty cities and villages, ranging from Crystal Lake with a population of 28,016 to Union with a population of 542. From 1980 to 1993, McHenry County gained over 54,000 persons. Estimates indicate that the County's population will reach 275,000 by 2010, an increase of 86% since 1980.
The median household income is $43,471, considerably more than the national level of $35,225. However, the number of persons living in or near poverty conditions is substantial and growing. The number of high school graduates has climbed from 74.9% in 1980 to 84.5% in 1990; the number of college graduates rose from 17% to 21%. The jobless rate has increased from 4.5% in 1989 to 9.1% in 1993.
Transformation of the ethnic and racial diversity of McHenry County has been
evident for the past decade. 1990 census data indicates that 3,665 (2%) of the
County's population are non-Caucasian, an increase of 19% from 1980. Also,
according to census data, the Hispanic population in McHenry County has more
than doubled to over 6,000 individuals. However, using the more conservative
two-thirds census response rate for Hispanics, this estimate would be closer to
9,000 persons. The Illinois Migrant Council has then adjusted this number for
1994 to be closer to 11,000 and predicts it to grow to 20,000 by the year 2000.
McHenry County is the fastest-growing county in the State. Approximately 60% of the County's land use is agricultural. In 1987, agricultural sales contributed approximately $100 million to the County's economy, according to the 1987 Census of Agriculture. Agricultural land is also a vital factor in the environment and character of the County. Presently, 2.2% of the land in the County, is in commercial, industrial or earth extraction land uses. Since 1975, McHenry County has remained the number one producer of sand and gravel in Illinois.
First-time home buyers and other residents of the County are experiencing difficulty dealing with the twin pressures of rapid population growth and rising new housing costs.
The price of homes has increased significantly. Affordable single-family homes have become increasingly scarce as a result of increased prices . A growing number of residents have found it more difficult to attain ownership and, therefore, are forced to remain in rental units or seek more affordable housing outside of the County. While both higher and lower cost housing exist in the County, it does not follow that affordable housing will be located in the areas associated with employment opportunities.
The majority of households in the unincorporated County are single-family units. The majority of high density development (less than one acre/dwelling unit) in the unincorporated part of the County occurs in the form of subdivisions located in the Wonder Lake area and along the Fox River. Medium density development (1.0 to 2.9 acres/dwelling unit) is also primarily in the form of subdivisions and is dispersed throughout the County. Low density development (3 acres or more/dwelling unit) tends to occur as low density subdivisions or as individual parcels that are split off from a larger parcel. Concentrations of these individual residences are found throughout the County. As of the Spring of 1991, there were more than 1,000 undeveloped 5-10 acre parcels which could potentially be used for individual residences. In addition, there were nearly 2,600 vacant, platted subdivision lots in the unincorporated portions of the County If residential development is allowed to significantly increase the density within remote areas of the County, the costs of services (such as police protection, fire protection, road maintenance, school transportation, etc.) will likely increase. An increase in development of this type on or near the most productive farmland could also set a precedent which would, in time, diminish the resource value of the County's agricultural lands.
The cost of housing is not limited to rent or mortgage payments. Potential and existing residents are expressing concern regarding rising property taxes which have the effect of increasing the cost of housing for both owners and renters. These individuals are also experiencing increased transportation, clothing, child care and food costs. The lower income working family employed in the service and retail sectors does not earn sufficient wages to purchase or rent most new housing built today without paying in excess of 30% of their gross annual income. Consequently, many of the lower income workers are choosing to pay in excess of 30% of their pre-tax income for housing, to live in substandard but affordable units or not to live in the County but to commute, sometimes long distances, to reach their jobs.
Another way of looking at demand for housing is considering needs of particular populations. For instance, the number of extremely low-, very low- and low-income households can help estimate the number and type of households in need of housing assistance. In addition, there are groups with special needs such as the elderly or disabled.
The following is a breakdown of McHenry County households by HUD Adjusted Median Family Income (HAMFI):
Households with income below 30% HAMFI
Households with income below 50% HAMFI
Households with income below 80% HAMFI
According to the Consolidated Plan, 202 persons are homeless in McHenry County, 19% family members and 81% adults. Underemployment and unemployment were the most frequently cited reasons for homelessness, followed by chemical abuse, lack of adequate education, and personal disaster.
The McHenry County Emergency Housing Survey (1993) provided the following data: (1) McHenry County agencies reported that 95-100% of the people requesting emergency housing assistance (defined as assistance with past due rent or mortgage, first month rent or security deposit, and motels) in 1993 were residents of McHenry County; (2) McHenry County agencies spent at least $55,000 to house people without homes in motels in 1993; (3) Agencies received 1,850 requests for emergency housing assistance (for rent, mortgage, or motel payments) which represented 4,700 people, three-fifths of whom were children; (4) Of the 4,700 people who requested assistance, about 2,000 people or two-fifths were helped with rent, mortgage, or motel payments. This included almost 1,000 children or about one-third of the children needing housing.
The McHenry County Housing Authority operates public and assisted housing within McHenry County. The Housing Authority's programs include: Section 8 Existing Housing; Public Housing; Low Income Energy Assistance (LIHEAP); Low Income Weatherization Assistance (LIWAP); and Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). The Housing Authority's Section 8 Existing Housing Program currently provides assistance to 2,067 persons (827 households). Over 54% of the units consist of single parent, head-of-household families.
The price of homes has increased significantly. Affordable single-family homes have become increasingly scarce as a result of increased prices. A growing number of residents have found it more difficult to attain ownership and, therefore, are forced to remain in rental units or seek more affordable housing outside of the County. While both higher and lower cost housing exist in the County, it does not follow that affordable housing will be located in the areas associated with employment opportunities.
The Strategic Plan portion of the Consolidated Plan is a culmination of several focus groups, surveys and studies supplied by various agencies and organizations. At the final meeting of May 18, 1995, a group representing a cross-section of municipalities, health and human services providers, and housing advocates prepared the following mission statement: To ensure the supply of adequate, attainable, safe, accessible, geographically-based housing for all economic and cultural elements of the County's population with an emphasis on a variety of housing types and opportunities including, but not limited to, permanent, transitional and emergency housing, utilizing the partnership of public and private sector resources.
The McHenry County Department of Health administers lead poisoning prevention activities. Ideally, environmental assessments would be offered in the community prior to a client being diagnosed with an elevated blood-lead level. Of the 529 children screened through its Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in 1995 (12/94-4/95), 4.5% had elevated levels; of the 1,241 children screened in 1994, 5.5% had elevated levels The Health Department currently faces obstacles to expanding this program due to inadequate resources for personnel and equipment. A small lead poisoning prevention grant is received from the Illinois Department of Public Health, but the dollars available do not fund the current cost of the lead screening program.
There are many areas of McHenry County that are experiencing rapid growth.
Development is in the form of residential, industrial, and commercial, many
times creating pressure on existing infrastructure systems. It is expected that
in eligible areas, CDBG funds will be used in conjunction with other local
revenue sources to provide financing necessary to construct a wide range of
infrastructure improvements including water main replacement and/or
improvements, storm and sanitary sewer improvements and extensions, and roadway
The process used to arrive at various strategies was a fluid one. The process actually began in February 1995 when the McHenry County Affordable Housing Task Force, composed of several individuals representing civic organizations, religious institutions, governmental agencies, not-for-profit organizations, and the housing industry, held a round table or focus group discussion to comment on the housing needs within the County. Specific needs of their client populations, as well as the effect of public policies on housing availability and affordability was also discussed.
The four major housing goals upon which the County has based its housing strategies are:
The County's priorities are infrastructure improvement and replacement, public services and economic development.
A consensus was reached that County priorities must be broad-based and should not foreclose any one activity in favor of another; also, the County must pursue a balanced housing market, which is diverse both economically and geographically. A balanced housing market includes an adequate supply of both rental and owner-occupied housing units, in a safe and sanitary condition. The market should also include a mix of types of units, related services, and geographic areas suitable to the needs and demands of McHenry County residents. Housing should be socially diverse and integrated. A housing market must be economically diverse; that is, units must be available at costs that are affordable to the entire range of household income.
The County will allocate CDBG-HOME resources to increase the supply of standard, affordable housing through the acquisition and rehabilitation of existing housing, as well as the new construction of additional units where it is economically necessary. The County will promote technical assistance and capacity building of affordable housing providers, and it will promote home ownership opportunities whenever possible. Rental assistance to alleviate rental cost burden, as well as first time homebuyer assistance, will also be available to lower income families and individuals. Help for homeless, as well as special needs clients, will be a top priority. This is especially true for those families and individuals who need support facilities and services.
Primary Federal resources include the Community Development Block Grant, HOME Investment Partnership Act, Supportive Housing Program, Section 8 Existing Housing, Public Housing, Low Income Energy Assistance, Low Income Weatherization Assistance, and Community Services Block Grant. There is also a wide range of non-profit initiatives.
The McHenry County Board oversees the County's CDBG and HOME grants and is
the body that ultimately approved the Consolidated Plan. The McHenry County
Board has delegated the interim responsibility for administration of the CDBG
program to the County Board's Planning and Development Committee, which makes
recommendations to the County Board for its official action. In the long term,
the County expects to establish a Community Development Committee which will
make CDBG-related recommendations to the County Board. This committee is
expected to include representatives from County Board municipalities, townships
and human service organizations. The Planning and Development Department has
lead responsibility for administration of the programs.
The One-Year Action Plan outlines the proposed use of approximately $1,763,000 in CDBG and HOME funds. These funds will be expended for the following activities:
|Housing Rehabilitation/Homeownership Programs||$739,700|
|Code Enforcement, Lead-Based Paint||33,835|
Funds will be targeted to identified low-income areas and to directly benefit low- and moderate-income persons.
The four major housing goals upon which the County has based its housing strategies are:
MAP 2 depicts points of interest and low-moderate income areas.
MAP 3 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, and minority concentration levels.
MAP 4 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, and unemployment levels.