HRA director says he remains focused on housing after merger with the EDA fails to move forward
WTIP file photo

HRA director says he remains focused on housing after merger with the EDA fails to move forward

It’s an opportunity for a reset.

That’s a sentiment from Cook County Housing Redevelopment Authority (HRA) Director Jason Hale following an eventful start to 2023 that reached a peak of sorts when local officials denied a request to merge the organization with the local Economic Development Authority (EDA).

Hale told WTIP June 6 that the merger was a combination of disappointment, opportunity, and a chance to reset and move forward.

After months of discussion by various appointed officials and community members, the Cook County Board of Commissioners voted not to approve a merger of the EDA and the HRA.

The commissioners voted 3-2 on May 9 to deny a resolution that would merge the HRA and the EDA.

The troubled history of the EDA, a current emphasis on needed housing across the county, and public support of the HRA were reasons cited by the commissioners for why the merger was not a good idea.

The HRA was formed in August 2021 following a 5-0 vote by the Cook County Board of Commissioners. The HRA was formed to address a critical issue facing the community, the board of commissioners said upon approving the entity, that being a lack of housing in Cook County.

Similar to the EDA, the HRA was created with levy authority, though its budget must be approved annually by the county board. The initial budget for the HRA in 2022 was $125,000. The work of the HRA has been largely praised by the community following the hiring of Hale in March 2022.

In addition to a discussion about the failed merger of the EDA and HRA, Hale also shares an update on a variety of projects the organization is working on at this time. Among them are supporting a change of ownership at the Birchwood Apartments in Grand Marais, a proposed apartment complex at the base of the Gunflint Trail, and other local housing projects that are in the works. Listen to the full interview in the audio below.