The Oak Park Board of Trustees got a little closer at its Feb. 25 meeting to reaching consensus on the finer points of its inclusionary zoning ordinance, but the two big issues – the percentage of units set aside in new developments and in-lieu amounts – have yet to be determined.
Oak Park village staff presented a plan in mid-February recommending that apartment and townhouse developments with 25 units or more make 5 to 10 percent of their units affordable.
The village proposal also stipulates that developers be given the option of making donations in lieu of units in the building. The amount per unit should be $50,000 to $100,000 in lieu of the set aside units, according to the village recommendation.
Trustee Jim Taglia said Monday the number of units and in-lieu fees is a difficult decision that “should not be taken lightly.”
“I think we should be very careful and methodical about this aspect (of the ordinance),” he said.
Trustee Simone Boutet requested an analysis by a third-party real estate consultant to give the board better direction on the issue.
John Lynch, executive director of the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation, said a reasonable amount is based on a complex mixture of the land value, the real estate market and projections of what the market will bear in the future.
Trustee Bob Tucker said trustees and village staff are talking to developers and affordable housing experts to find an appropriate percentage and in-lieu amount that will not stifle development.
Some affordable housing advocates have pushed for 30 percent affordable units in large developments. “We can have 30 percent and pat ourselves on the back because of a strong ordinance,” Tucker said, noting that it could mean zero money in an affordable housing fund because it deters development in the village.
Board members reached consensus on the concept of allowing in-lieu contributions to the village’s affordable housing fund, but Taglia warned that the fund should not “create a segregated area where all the low-income people end up.”
Trustees also discussed the percentage of area median income that would be considered affordable. The proposed ordinance sets the rate at 80 percent, meaning that those making that percentage of the area median income would be considered affordable.
Trustee Dan Moroney noted that residents of 3,649 of Oak Park’s 8,698 apartments are currently making 60 percent of the area median income. He added that 42.5 percent of existing apartments already are affordable to someone making 60 percent of area median income.
“To me we do not have an affordability issue in our apartments,” he said. “This is addressing something that is not a problem in Oak Park.”
Boutet noted that the need in the village is residents at the lowest income level, adding that she supports focusing on those most in need of help.