Let’s set the record straight about River Forest and its obligations under the Illinois Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act.
First, it’s vital to understand that the “affordable housing” in the act is housing affordable to teachers, librarians, seniors, recent college graduates, city and school district employees, social workers, artists, nonprofit professionals, and others in professions that are not highly lucrative.
There is no question that River Forest is subject to the Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act. The only towns able to suggest with a straight face that they are not subject to the act are home-rule communities — but even they don’t have a valid legal leg to stand on.
I’m assuming that River Forest officials who suggest the village is not subject to the act think it’s because more than 10 percent of River Forest’s dwelling units were affordable to median-income Cook County households when the act went into effect. The act is applicable to communities where less than 10 percent of the dwelling units are dubbed “affordable.” But the proportion of affordable units in River Forest has plummeted by more than half, down to only 4.4 percent. Just 172 of the village’s 3,886 dwelling units are “affordable.” The village has readily allowed developers to replace affordable dwellings with units that only upper-income households can afford. The now-repealed, and almost certainly illegal village ordinance that froze the number of multifamily dwellings in town played a major role in eliminating affordable homes. In 2010, the village’s draft Corridor Plan called for replacing nearly all of the village’s affordable homes with luxury housing until 75 residents articulately objected at a village board meeting. The board, however, adamantly refused to commit to preserving the village’s dwindling supply of affordable homes.
River Forest’s median household income is $113,317 according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, up from $89,284 in 1999. This means that half of River Forest households have annual incomes above $113,317 and half below it. The average household income in River Forest is nearly $180,000, up from $127,752 in 1999.
Wednesday Journal is mistaken when it contends that River Forest’s median household income is just $61,045. More likely that is the median household income for the region (Metropolitan Statistical Area) which is used to determine the affordability of housing under the act.
River Forest was a perfectly fine community when more than 10 percent of our homes were affordable to the fine people who work in respectable professions that don’t pay high wages. There’s no reason River Forest wouldn’t still be a perfectly fine community when, once again, at least 10 percent of our housing is affordable to them, which will give our children and grandchildren the opportunity to grow up in a community that better reflects the world in which they will live as adults.
A River Forest resident for 27 years, Daniel Lauber is a city planning consultant with 40 years of national experience preserving and creating affordable housing. He is a past-president of the American Planning Association and American Institute of Certified Planner.