Columns | Daily Chronicle

Guest column: Tax credits key to filling need for affordable housing in Illinois

Drive through any community in Illinois and you’re sure to see the orange cones and blinking lights of a road construction zone. You also might see crews building a new restaurant, bank or gas station. And in many communities, you’ll see the cranes and earthmovers building a new manufacturing facility, data center or electric vehicle assembly plant. But even amid all this construction, it’s less common, rare even, to spot a new home or subdivision being built.

Illinois has the ninth highest housing deficit in the nation, and that deficit has grown 64% over the past decade. Ask a mayor what is most in need in their community, and more times than not the answer will be safe, stable housing that their residents can afford.

When I served in the Illinois House of Representatives, I worked across the aisle to advocate for affordable housing because I saw how safe and stable housing improves public safety, health care, education and community services. We found support from legislators across the state, in communities large and small, because the lack of affordable housing is a concern for residents in every district.

Now I serve as the president of an economic development organization in Lee County, a rural county west of Chicago, and I see another reason for supporting affordable housing: It’s vitally important to our economy.

Every day, I talk with site selectors, developers and companies looking to build or grow in Illinois. Local population and available workforce are among their top criteria for choosing where to locate. Large projects and developments can add hundreds of new jobs to a community and often bring additional pressure to an already notable housing shortage.

If we want Illinois to remain competitive in site selection and economic development, we must build more homes and apartments.

The Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit is a key part of the solution. Over the first five years, this tax credit can attract new private investment to build 5,745 new affordable houses in communities across the state, allowing us to draw down unused federal tax credits, create high-quality jobs and generate new tax base.

Critically, the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit is designed to provide new phases of funding each year, which provides the stability developers need to make plans for the future instead of rushing to apply for a one-and-done round of funding.

New affordable housing options will provide thousands of Illinoisans with good places to live and support the revitalization of communities that have been stagnated by the housing shortage. And as site selectors and developers evaluate potential project locations, new homes and residents will give Illinois communities a real competitive advantage.

That’s why the Build Illinois Homes Tax Credit has attracted a diverse group of supporters, including LiUNA Midwest, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, the Chicago Teachers Union, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and many more.

I’m glad to show my strong support for the Build Illinois Tax Credit. I urge my former colleagues and friends on both sides of the aisle in the Illinois General Assembly to enact this incentive and support economic growth in communities across our great state.

Tom Demmer is executive director of the Lee County Industrial Development Association and was a Republican state representative from 2013 to 2023 for Lee, Ogle, DeKalb and LaSalle counties in north-central Illinois.