$7M goes to collective for affordable housing

Group will invest in foreclosed properties, do comprehensive planning


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By Nick Moroni

Forest Park Review Editor

Local elected officials as well as state and federal pols were all gathered on a rainy morning, Dec. 3, in Oak Park, on Marion and Westgate streets. They were there to announce that a collaborative comprised of five area municipalities had received $7 million in combined federal and state dollars to invest in affordable housing.

The West Cook County Housing Collaborative — comprised of the villages of Forest Park, Oak Park, Bellwood, Berwyn and Maywood — were presented grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development ($2.9 million) and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity ($4.2 million).

The money, according to the village, will be invested in projects such as purchasing and rehabbing foreclosed properties, and for developing a long-term plan for affordable housing in all the abovementioned areas.

At the press conference, David Pope, Oak Park village president, said that the collaborative wants to reinvest in areas that have imbedded infrastructure.

A primary focus, though, is on combating foreclosure — something that both Gov. Pat Quinn and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), who were in attendance, spoke to.

"My hometown of East St. Louis is a good example of what happens," said Durbin, in reference to the economically depressed downstate town, which is rife with foreclosures and vacancies. "It's a haven for bad activity ... and a 50-year story we don't want to repeat."

Quinn echoed this when he said that, in Illinois, foreclosures can bring down neighboring properties by some 10 percent.

"We're working ... to get those homes ... to folks who have a stake in the community," Quinn said.

There will also be an emphasis on investing the money in locations that are close to rapid transit areas.

Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone, whose comments concluded the ceremony, said that "public transportation is a key component" that will be taken into consideration when money is invested in projects in Forest Park.

Currently, the village has not identified any properties in Forest Park that it plans to invest in.

Calderone, who, alongside Pope, was a leader in forming the collaborative about two years ago, concluded his address by stating that the village values its involvement in the group and its mission.

"We're lucky to be part of this collaborative," Calderone said.

Reader Comments

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Sista Silly  

Posted: December 8th, 2011 8:19 AM

If you were indeed "keepin it real", Silly, you would not try to sound young and ethnic while be old and white and Silly.


Posted: December 5th, 2011 11:28 PM

Just keepin it real sista

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: December 5th, 2011 11:23 PM

Silly, congratulations on actually commenting on something that was informative. Keep up the good work.


Posted: December 5th, 2011 6:45 PM

I thought you said they CANNOT? "Q-The landlord of an apartment house cannot ask a person where they get their monthly rent money."

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 5th, 2011 6:31 PM

Duh - thanks for repeating exactly what I said.


Posted: December 5th, 2011 6:01 PM

murtagh, in order to accept Sec 8 the landlord has to be approved by the govt who is paying the subsidy. Yes the landlord can verify where the money comes from to pay the rent. Its called income verification. Very standard practice.


Posted: December 5th, 2011 9:07 AM

When the federal govt. released the NSP2 funds in 2009 Oak Park did not qualify to receive any benefits because its foreclosure rate did not meet the requirements. The West Cook County Housing Collaborative received about $3.1 million, $2.8 of which was dedicated to one 26 unit apartment building in Maywood; and overlooked the OPRC's application to be the developer in favor of a group in Schaumburg. Meanwhile Maywood had over 600 foreclosures. The WCCHC refused to work with other local groups.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 5th, 2011 12:08 AM

Q-The landlord of an apartment house cannot ask a person where they get their monthly rent money. That means, if a government agency is willing to subsidize my rent I can get a $600 apartment when I only have enough to pay $400. It happens all the time. This type transaction is very common in OP. The key ingredient is that the landlord can set and enforce the standards of the building.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 11:35 PM

John, I think you're right. There's no mention of how these funds will be distributed. Since this will be a collaborative process we'll have to see how much is allocated to address affordable housing needs in Oak Park. Hopefully, adminstrative expenses and consultant costs will not eat up any significant amount of the monies. We are not entering uncharted territory and there should be proven ways to effectively use the funds. Still a lot of questions to be answered but let's hope we can get the most bang for the buck.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 11:13 PM

John Murtagh, can anyone get the 600 dollar apartment at 100 Forest? Would it be possible for someone who could only afford 400 dollars a month get into the 100 Forest apartments? I am not familiar at all with what affordable housing is. I only know Section 8's which can be good and bad depending on the tenant.

John Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 10:51 PM

Hi Q - When we were opposing the Madison Housing Proposal, we cited that their was housing units in the village which would have monthly rent that was the same as the single rooms in the Comcast Building. One of our comparison was apartments in the 100 Forest Apts available for $600 per month. Their apts range from $600 per month to $2,500 or more. Apt.size, location (higher is better), sightline (Oak Park Ave is better, etc.) Sertus, for instance, could be built w affordable apt.


Posted: December 4th, 2011 9:17 PM

Affordable housing is what is coming to Madison and Grove soon. Stay tuned.


Posted: December 4th, 2011 9:09 PM

Affordable housing? Is that what they call it? Take a look: http://www.alacartoon.com/home/laff-ordable-housing

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 9:09 PM

John Murtagh, thank you for explaining what affordable housing is about. I think everyone should have shelter, food and clothing, but I don't understand if a neighborhood has rents going for 1800 per month, how do you make it affordable to someone who can't afford it?

Top Notch  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 9:05 PM

We are blessed to have such civic minded personable leaders in this region. Thank you all.

John Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 8:33 PM

Beware TJ, I think that hot air might be combustible.

John Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 8:32 PM

Jim - I do not see anything that says the communities will share the 7M equally. That would be up to West Cook County Housing Collaborative. OP, with more than 30% affordable housing, might not received a big share of the 7M. In Sept. 2010, the OP Housing Comm. submitted a plan to the board that proposed the possibility of OP passing an ordinance to ensure that all new multi-dwellings have a % of apartments that were "affordable." OP might want some some money to study that proposal.

T.J. from OP  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 8:27 PM

If I could just figure out a way to harness all the hot air from these politicians I could heat my home for the winter.

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 8:10 PM

Jim -

John Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 8:04 PM

Hi Q - Affordable housing is a fed and state program to ensure that low cost housing (subsidized or not) is available. About six years ago the state identified about 50 communities in Ill. that had less than 10% of housing that is affordable. The state then ordered those communities to submit plans to reach 10%. They have been working with several communities including Burr Ridge, and Winnetka. Oak Park is not one of the 50. OP's affordable housing is over 30% (primarily apts).

T.J. from Oak Park  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 8:01 PM

The sound of Dick Durbin's voice makes me want to vomit. That windbag is always looking to get his mug in front of a camera.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 4:06 PM

What is affordable housing? Is it less than the amount someone can pay? Isn't that what a Section 8 takes care of? A person wants to live in Oak Park, but can only pay 400 dollars so the Section 8 pays the balance? Can anyone live anywhere they want without being able to afford it? I wouldn't mind having a mansion in the North Shore area. Is there any money to help me with that?

Frank from Oak Park  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 3:00 PM

Thanks Brian for crunching the numbers. In concept, the idea of re-marketing foreclosed properties sounds attractive but yes, the amount allotted seems a drop in the bucket. This is window-dressing and a photo- op. I'm guessing Maywood, Bellwood, and Berwyn are even harder hit than OP by foreclosures and, frankly, empty houses there are more likely go to seed. And more of than can be reclaimed for the same dollar amount. For the good of the region, OP should just forgo its share to those towns.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 10:45 AM

When you crunch the numbers, the grant money is not going to make a significant difference; but it is a start. I am concerned that some of the funding will be spent developing a long-term plan for affordable housing. That usually means a lot of money being doled out to high-priced consultants. Oak Park has awarded tens of millions of tax dollars in contracts to get "expert" opinion. This type of "white collar patronage" drains resources and reduces potential benefits. There must be a wealth of studies available that can provide the data and guidelines for this type of planning. Oak Park should make certain to spend this money to aid those most in need.

Brian Slowiak from Oak Park  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 1:35 AM

Five communities split 7.2 mil five ways,or 1.5mil per community. At $100 grand a home in Oak Park that is 15 homes.Maybe. plus not all the money will be spent on home purchases. Question to be asked: how many foreclosed homes in Oak Park? 15?

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: December 4th, 2011 12:01 AM

How will this work? Are tax dollars being used to purchase the properties from the banks who foreclosed on the previous owners. Does this in effect provide financial relief for the mortgage holders while placing the burden of rehab and resale on these local governments? Is this the most effect way to address the growing problem of people losing their homes to foreclosure or who have simply walked away? Should we be looking at how to keep people in their homes by working with lenders or are they only interested in getting a loss off their books? There's certainly a need for affordable housing but how these funds are going to be invested needs to be explained in greater detail.

Gail Moran from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: December 3rd, 2011 8:13 PM

Congratulations to the Village(s) and to whomever did the grant-writing!

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