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The Village of Oak Park doesn’t have enough rental housing for some senior citizens, according to a recent township study. And so the township was considering buying land to possibly help fill that need, but it appears the idea won’t get past the fantasy stage.
A consultant completed a study in April, which showed that Oak Park is short by about 50 apartments for seniors who are considered to have a moderate income (between $20,000 and $50,000). If you add in seniors from neighboring communities, that gap in what’s available swells to about 200 apartments (assuming that proposed senior buildings in Forest Park and Elmwood Park aren’t built).
The township — which partnered with the Village of Oak Park and the Oak Park Housing Authority on the effort — then had a subsequent study done to figure out how the demand might be met. Oak Park already has a senior population of 5,200 (or 10.5 percent), which is projected to grow in the coming years.
Block Affordable Housing Consulting was asked by the township to determine if the numbers would work in building a 50 to 100-unit senior building, using low-income tax credits. But there were too many roadblocks, according to Township Supervisor David Boulanger. Land is far too expensive in Oak Park, and the township isn’t interested in being a landlord, he said.
In their research, some townships have used revenue bonds to build affordable senior housing. But that would likely require operating subsidies from the township each year to keep the venture going.
“We didn’t want to get into that, we wanted a building to be self-sustaining,” Boulanger said. “It would be too high a risk, and we would end up with a liability that we don’t want to have to deal with.”
The idea was that the Oak Park Residence Corp. could possibly manage the building, while the township would float the bond to build it somewhere in Oak Park. But with the numbers not adding up, Boulanger expects that the exploration will fizzle out. The township board was scheduled to meet to discuss the issue Tuesday night, after Wednesday Journal’s deadline, and he expected that they might close the book on the exploration.
“I think we’ve looked into it, and financially it does not look feasible for us to do this,” he said. “It just does not make sense for us to use township funds in this direction.”
The first study cost $15,000 and was paid for by way of a state grant, according to Boulanger, while costs for the $3,000 “pro forma” were borne by the township.