Illinois Sessions: October 13 – 15

National Sessions: October 13 – 23

Going virtual—and national!

Housing Action Illinois is partnering with the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations (NACEDA) to bring you our annual Housing Matters! Conference as part of the Strengthening Resilient Communities forum. In addition to robust Illinois programming, we will be hosting five plenary sessions with top national speakers—such as a keynote address by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist.

In addition to joining the Illinois sessions on October 13 – 15 (see below for more detail), you can participate in other virtual state community development conferences taking place October 13 – 23. To take advantage of this opportunity, make sure to choose the All-Access Pass add-on at registration.

To sign up for the 2020 Housing Matters! Conference, use registration code (case sensitive):



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Member Rate $50, Non-member Rate $100

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Housing Matters! 2020 Program

We are hosting sessions available just to Illinois participants, in addition to the national plenary and All-Access Pass sessions available to participants from across the nation. The national plenary sessions, included with registration for our conference, will take place from October 13 – 23:

  • Forum Opening Keynote: Igniting Radical Imagination with Deanna Van Buren (10/13)
  • National Plenary: The Pandemic, Public Health, and the Opportunity to Strengthen Our Communities (10/15)
  • National Plenary: Building Racial Equity into Organizational Practices (10/19)
  • Forum Keynote: How to Be an Antiracist Community Developer with Ibram X. Kendi (10/21)
  • National Plenary: The Community Reinvestment Act and Stakes for Community Developers (10/23)

All times are CDT

Tuesday, October 13

Housing Matters! 2020 Kickoff & Keynote (10:0010:45 am) Illinois only
State Representative Delia Ramirez
Join us as we embark on our first virtual conference, engaging with peers from across the state and nation. Hear from Illinois keynote speaker Representative Delia Ramirez, who has been a tireless champion for expanding affordable housing and ending homelessness since being elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 2018. As the former founding Executive Director of the Center for Changing Lives and board chair for Latin United Community Housing Association and Logan Square Neighborhood Association, she understands both the systemic issues and the day-to-day challenges of the work we do. During this kickoff, we will also get you oriented and provide details on how you can connect with fellow conference-goers to make the most out of this event.

National Plenary: Igniting Radical Imagination — Opening Keynote with Deanna Van Buren (11:00 am12:00 pm)
Activist Architect Deanna Van Buren uses design to reimagine a world without mass incarceration. She creates spaces for restorative justice and restorative economics at her design firm, Designing Justice + Designing Spaces. As the communities we serve experience new levels of upheaval in 2020 due to the pandemic, Van Buren will help us to ignite our own radical imagination to meet the moment. She will share stories and lead us through exercises that will help us to imagine boldly during these two weeks of Strengthening Resilient Communities | The National Forum.

Midday Connections: Let’s Get Local (12:301:30 pm) Illinois only
Grab your lunch and connect with participants from your area of Illinois during regional breakout sessions for central, northwestern, and southern Illinois, as well as suburban Chicagoland and Chicago. During this casual networking conversation, we invite you to share what challenges affect your particular region, recent developments in housing and homelessness at the local level, identify opportunities for collaboration, and explore ideas for next steps.

Concurrent Sessions (2:003:00 pm)

How COVID-19 is Changing Architecture & Design
Simone Early, Assistant Director of the Architecture, Engineering and Sustainability Unit, Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Derric Scott, East Jefferson Development Corporation; Heidi Wang, Partner, Worn Jerabek Wiltse Architects
The COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping what kind of spaces we want to be in and what kind of spaces we want to build. Fear of contagion, the need to self-isolate, and an increase in remote work have changed the way we use our homes. How will the pandemic change the design and development of private and public spaces? New affordable housing in Illinois and across the U.S. usually consists of rental units in multifamily developments, which are particularly affected by these concerns. How is this public health crisis affecting multifamily developments in the short—and long—term? Join experts in architecture, planning, and public finance to discuss the pandemic’s immediate impact and share visions for future housing that encourages interaction while keeping residents healthy and safe.

Evictions & Foreclosures: Updates, Questions, & Answers
Daniel P. Lindsey, Legal Aid Chicago; Mark Swartz, Executive Director, Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing; Larry Sullivan, Lead Case Manager, Embarras River Basin Agency, Inc.; Athena Williams, Oak Park Regional Housing Center
At this session, we’ll discuss current policy and advocacy issues related to preventing evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 pandemic. Attorneys, a housing counselor and a homeless service provider will also report on what’s happening in local communities throughout Illinois and be available to answer questions. As we plan this workshop, there is a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty about how many people will be at risk of losing their homes; courts are reopening, legal protections are set to expire, and rent/mortgage relief programs don’t seem sufficient to meet anticipated needs. During the session, we’ll plan to spend some time in breakout rooms, so you can delve deeper into specific issues.

Where Do We Go From Here: Lessons Learned & The Future of Virtual Counseling
Laura Royer, President, The Royer Consultancy
The COVID-19 pandemic sent housing counselors scrambling to find virtual tools to keep programs and services going. Now, virtual counseling and education are becoming an integral part of how we serve clients. Providing these services can help agencies reduce overhead costs while increasing their capacity to serve more people. During this workshop, we’ll discuss platforms and digital tools that are game changers for housing counseling. We’ll also have an open conversation about the challenges that agencies have faced implementing virtual tools, including who is left out when we provide virtual services and how to make our programs as accessible as possible. We’ll talk about how to deal with those challenges and what agencies still need to make these services work. Finally, we’ll take a look at the future, including the steps that agencies should take to prepare for the next phase of housing counseling.

Wednesday, October 14

Housing Action Illinois Member Meeting (11:00 am12:00 pm) Illinois only
Remarks by Kristin Faust, Executive Director, Illinois Housing Development Authority
During our annual membership meeting, you’ll hear from Board members and staff as we discuss organizational successes, challenges and goals for the coming year. Organizational members will also vote for Board members to guide the organization during this critical time.  Everyone is welcome to join us for this meeting, whether or not you or your organization are official Housing Action members.

Midday Connections: Ethical Storytelling (12:301:30 pm)
Emily Hooper Lansana, Director of Community Arts, Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago
Who does a story belong to? How do we ask permission? How do we create safe space for the sharing and preservation of stories? How do we solicit stories without re-traumatizing the storyteller? What is the relationship between storyteller and organization? Join us for an interactive workshop in which we will explore stories on a personal level and springboard into a larger examination of fundamental questions related to meaningful, ethical storytelling. We will examine the ethics of collecting and sharing stories in the context of fundraising, communicating an organization’s mission, and sharing the impact of programs.

Concurrent Sessions (2:003:00 pm)

Bringing an Equity Lens to Homelessness Response during COVID-19
Ann Oliva, Visiting Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities; Kurt Runge, Continuum of Care Program Director, Alliance to End Homelessness in Suburban Cook County; Darsonya Switzer, Homeward Bound Program Director, Dove, Inc.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and others created the Framework for an Equitable COVID-19 Homelessness Response to provide guidance on how homelessness systems can leverage the CARES Act and other funding sources to simultaneously conduct emergency protective measures while planning for recovery-oriented uses of these funds. We’ll hear from people who developed and are implementing the Framework about how to use it to spend funds strategically to help meet public health goals, increase housing stability, and prevent future increases in homelessness—all through a racial justice and equity lens.

Bridging the Black & Latinx Homeownership Gap: Holistic Strategies
Dedrick Asante-Muhammed, Chief of Race, Wealth and Community, National Community Reinvestment Coalition; Marc Dones, Executive Director, Natinoal Innovation Service; LaDonna Reed, Senior Vice President and Director of Community Accountability, Associated Bank; Richard Townsell, Executive Director, Lawndale Christian CDC
Nationally, disparities in homeownership rates between Black and white families are currently even wider than before the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Despite an increase in homeownership rates, Latinx households also face large inequities, and the gap between Latinx and white homeownership rates will take decades to close if current trends continue. These racial disparities in homeownership, which reflect the impacts of the Great Recession foreclosure crisis and historic redlining practices, impede opportunities to build generational wealth in communities of color. Join us to hear a lender, a developer, and a policy expert discuss effective strategies for expanding sustainable, affordable homeownership and provide thoughts on innovation from on-the-ground experiences. You will be invited to share your own experiences, challenges, and successes in working to reduce racial homeownership disparities.

Starting a Housing Counseling Program: How to Overcome Common Hurdles & Find Your Niche
Cait Baker, Quality Improvement Manager, justine PETERSEN; Javon E. Blye, Housing Program Technical Specialist, Department of Housing and Urban Development; Cornelius Sams, Program Manager, Genesis Housing Development Corporation; Chris Samuels, Program Manager, Restoration America
Getting a housing counseling program up and running can be a daunting task. How do you handle staff turnover, or run a successful program with only one or two counselors? Join us to hear how different agencies from around Illinois successfully started their housing counseling programs—whether the program is managed by a single counselor operating within a larger organization, or is run by a small organization with only a couple of staff members who manage the counseling program while also handling all other operations. Our speakers will share their experiences in overcoming common hurdles and discuss how you can find your niche by assessing and focusing on your community’s specific needs.

Lift Your Spirits: Cocktail/Mocktail Demonstration (3:30–4:30 pm)
Join us to unwind, meet other attendees after a busy day of conference sessions, and get into the spirits of autumn. Chicago-based bartender Suzanne Monin will join us to demonstrate how to make autumn-themed beverages, including a cocktail and a non-alcoholic option. We will share ingredient lists in advance so you can make your drink along at home—but everyone is welcome to join with a beer, soda, or whatever’s handy in the fridge. After the demonstration, we’ll mix and mingle in small groups.

Thursday, October 15

National Plenary: The Pandemic, Public Health & the Opportunity to Strengthen our Communities (11:00 am12:00 pm)
The pandemic has increased focus and investment in public health – and laid bare the fact that poverty and racism damage health. Thought leaders are increasingly focused on how policies can improve or harm the health of populations. How can the community development and public health sectors work together to advocate for healthier places during the COVID crisis and embed resilience and equity as part of the recovery?

Midday Connections: Response, Resilience, Recovery (12:301:30 pm) Illinois only
Choose among three sessions designed to help you and your colleagues as we respond, recover, and rebuild during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Cultivating Emotional Wellness Amidst COVID-19
Kate Mahoney, Executive Director, Naomi Ruth Cohen Institute for Mental Health Education; Claire Openshaw, Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and an Assistant Professor, Governors State University
The current Covid-19 crisis has created many new challenges for daily living. These challenges are causing great stress and anxiety, which can significantly contribute to serious health problems. The United Nations has already highlighted a need for an increase in mental health conditions due to the epidemic (UN, 2020). This workshop explores some of the particular challenges related to Covid-19; including isolation and decreased support systems, a sense of powerlessness/loss of control/feelings of uncertainty, fear about our health/death, and grief.
In this workshop, participants will be provided with specific interventions on how to cope with the overwhelming stress and unpredictably that this crisis has created. Ways in which participants can better manage their daily lives will be explored. Participants will also be provided with resources available for assisting those in distress. Additionally, participants will create a personalized 3-step wellness plan to assist in cultivating emotional wellness.

Emerging Leaders: Open Conversation
Facilitated by Housing Action Illinois staff & partners
How do you start a new career or build a network in the midst of a pandemic? Join other newcomers to the housing and homelessness field to talk through challenges and share ideas. We’ll discuss what it’s like to start a new position, search for a job, and find professional development opportunities during the ongoing public health crisis. Participants will have the chance to talk through personal challenges and ask questions in small groups.

Organizational Leaders: Open Conversation
Facilitated by Housing Action Illinois staff & partners
Join organizational leaders to discuss planning for uncertainty, staffing challenges, and developing return-to-work plans as the COVID-19 crisis continues. Participants will have the chance to talk through specific challenges and ask for advice in small groups.

Concurrent Sessions (2:003:00 pm) Illinois only

Working with Landlords to Provide Re-Entry Housing
Rob Anthony, President, Community Partners for Affordable Housing; Jilly Graciana, Rental Housing Support Program Manager, Winnebago County Housing Authority; David Northern, Sr., Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, Housing Authority of Champaign County; Marielina Valero, Rental Housing Support Program Coordinator, Housing Choice Partners
Our communities are safer and more stable when people have the opportunity to secure affordable homes after serving time, but it can be very difficult to find landlords who will rent to people with conviction records. The organizations implementing the State of Illinois’ Re-Entry Rental Housing Support Demonstration Program will talk about their efforts, particularly their work to recruit landlords to rent people exiting state prisons. The program, publicly launched in July, is designed to meet the housing needs of individuals exiting Illinois Department of Corrections’ facilities. The Illinois Housing Development Authority has committed $3 million over 3 years to support housing placement and ongoing rental subsidies for 75 eligible participants specifically referred by IDOC’s new Reentry Division. Speakers will discuss what messages and strategies they found effective to recruit landlords who have agreed to participate in the program—tools that anyone working to find housing for people with records will find useful.
Sponsored by Ameren Illinois

How Redlining Impacts More than Real Estate Values
Jason Richardson, Director of Research and Evaluation, National Community Reinvestment Coalition
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Home Owners Loan Corporation created maps that determined where federally guaranteed loans could be made in hundreds of cities. Now, 80 years after those maps were created and 50 years after the Fair Housing Act made them illegal, many neighborhoods they deemed “hazardous” continue to be impacted by those designations. Join Jason Richardson, Director of Research and Evaluation with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition to explore how these designations have impacted other outcomes, including health, life expectancies as well as real estate values.
Sponsored by Midland States Bank

COVID-19 and Mortgage Resets: Bringing Out the Foreclosure Toolkit
Congresswoman Robin Kelly, D-IL 2nd District; Laura Olvera, Director of Counseling and Education, Community Partners for Affordable Housing; Deborah Smith, Housing Counselor, Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County; Kamil Walton, Executive Director, Cornerstone Community Development Corporation
What did we learn about foreclosure in the wake of the Great Recession of 2008? How can we use those lessons to help homeowners avoid foreclosure due to COVID-19? Join us to hear from Congresswoman Kelly, whose district was hard hit during the last foreclosure crisis and who is helping her constituents brace for this next wave of housing instability. Then hear from housing counselors who served on the front lines a decade ago as they share best practices learned during the foreclosure crisis and the strategies we need now, as we roll up our sleeves and work to stabilize families and communities dealing with the current economic downturn. From assessing affordability to navigating the nuances of lender programs, we’ll discuss the knowledge and skills housing counselors need to present viable options to vulnerable homeowners.

Housing Matters! 2020 Closing: Seizing Opportunities, Shaping Tomorrow (3:30–4:30 pm) Illinois only
Remarks from Caronina Grimble, Illinois Department of Human Services
Join us as we reflect on the information and connections learned during the past few days, and helps us determine what we collectively need to be doing to make Illinois and our individual communities places where everyone has a quality, affordable home.

All-Access Pass

In addition to registering for our Housing Matters! 2020 conference, which includes five national plenary sessions, you can purchase an All-Access Pass to other virtual state community development conferences taking place October 13 – 23. This will let you join conferences organized by housing networks and community development associations in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, and Texas, as well as the NACEDA Summit. You’ll be able to hear how our peers in other states are recovering, advocating for their communities, and planning big for the future.

Calendar with session dates for Illinois and national workshops

Thank You to Our 2020 Conference Sponsors


Interested in supporting the conference? Learn more about sponsorship opportunities and contact Kristin Ginger with inquiries.


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About the Housing Matters! Conference

Each year, Housing Action Illinois brings together more than 200 housing professionals who care about expanding and protecting affordable housing and ending homelessness in Illinois. Together, we build expertise, experience, and the capacity to make our communities better. During the conference, we typically offer workshops in four different tracks:

  • Public Policy Advocacy
  • Ending Homelessness
  • Housing Counseling
  • Affordable Housing Development

We also bring participants together for opening and closing sessions, our annual membership meeting, and an evening networking reception.

Although we had originally planned to meet up again in person in Bloomington in 2020, concern for everyone’s health and well-being has led us to shift plans. We look forward to bringing this year’s conference to you in a new format and with partners from around the nation.