The plan to build affordable housing in the so-called Comcast building on Madison Street is a credible one. The three organizations backing the proposal are experienced in such efforts. Local connections and sensitivities are built into the project through the Oak Park Housing Authority. The work to bring the plan forward to this point has been diligent and public. The two properties necessary for the project are on the market and both are tremendous eyesores.
That said, as the proposal moves toward a hearing before the village’s Plan Commission this fall, some questions and opposition are surfacing. That’s good and inevitable. But some questions and opposition are worthier than others.
Here are issues we think need answers:
In a troubled real estate market, Oak Park has a flood of empty one-bedroom apartments and condos. Is there a way to convert that existing and widely dispersed stock to use for affordable housing? Possible but problematic is our initial response. But worth talking about.
The 51-unit project would be limited to singles with limited incomes. But if a child is allowed, what would be the impact on already taxed school enrollment. An awkward question but a fair one.
Here are questions from neighbors we reject outright. The project is too dense. It’s Madison Street, c’mon. The deal’s been a secret. The Journal first wrote about this plan in June 2008. Subscriptions are $25 a year. It will drive down property values. What decade are you living in? Oak Park has done its share for poor people. Tell that to poor people without a decent place to live.
There are legitimate issues. Then there is plain old NIMBYism. And it is never pretty.