Funding affordable housing

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One of the interesting debates towns like Oak Park and Evanston have is how to leverage strong interest in new residential development into more affordable housing units.

Not many towns have the debate because you need two critical elements: Notable new development because your town has strong appeal and enough heart and smarts to recognize that affordable housing only adds to that appeal.

Some argue persuasively that demanding major developers "set aside" a fixed number of apartments in a large project and price them at affordable rates is the way to go. Others recognize that is a tough sell to make to developers and better to simply force notable contributions to an affordable housing fund.

That is the route Oak Park has taken during the building boom of recent years and we have accumulated a tidy pool of $1.2 million in that fund. There is at least another $200,000 due from a development currently under construction. 

Monday night the village board heard staff recommendations on five funding proposals and chose three to support. We're enthused about Oak Park's $500,000 in support, and effectively its approval, of the Community Builders project for Oak Park Avenue and Van Buren. First-rate developer, thoughtful project. Also worthy, in our eyes, is a joint effort from Housing Forward and the Oak Park Homelessness Coalition to fund transitional apartment housing. This $500,000 project, also including the Oak Park Housing Authority, focuses on families with small children or special medical needs. Top-notch collaboration among worthy agencies. Finally, the board approved a $1 million loan to Mercy Housing to fund an affordable housing project to be built on a site to be determined. Again, a first-rate developer.

Reader Comments

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Ada Johnson Tikkanen  

Posted: August 6th, 2018 4:11 PM

It is greatly unfortunate, but I think Oak Park has been brought to its tipping point on funding every social service and affordable anything. I sat on my porch with 4 other people the other night. We all were agreement that when our kids were out of high school, we had to leave. As much as we love Oak Park, it simply no longer makes sense to live here once your kids are out of school in the village's current state.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: August 6th, 2018 12:48 PM

Developers often receive something in return for setting aside affordable housing units. In Chicago during the pre-recession housing boom, developers were often enticed with zoning variances in order to do so.

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: August 6th, 2018 12:18 PM

Yeah, lets force a developer to pay a fee. Oh wait, that just gets passed on to the buyers of the new housing that developer is building. So lets force some young family trying to buy their first home to pay more than they otherwise should. Then lets give that money to someone else some trustee deems more worthy and call that theft "thoughtful". What a crock of BS. This should be reported as part of the crime section of the paper, only the theft is much greater and goes unpunished.

Neal Buer  

Posted: August 1st, 2018 1:21 PM

The village oversight on everything makes Russia looks like utopia. What ever happened to a world where a seller could sell their land to a buyer, and that buyer could build what they wanted within the zoning laws, without government interference, variances, and subsidies? SMH.

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