The Oak Park Board of Trustees Monday approved the village’s first affordable housing ordinance, requiring developers along much of the two CTA el lines and on Madison Street to set aside affordable units or contribute funds for building such housing.
After weeks of debating the details of the ordinance, the majority of trustees agreed that the new requirements would force developers building apartments or townhouses to make 10 percent of their units affordable to people making 60 percent of the area median income.
Trustees voted to reduce the percentage from 80 percent of the area median income, which was suggested by village staff.
The board also gives developers the option of contributing fees in lieu of units at a rate of $100,000 per affordable unit that it doesn’t include in the building. That would mean $1 million in contributions for a building that aimed to build 100 units.
The ordinance applies to any construction of apartment buildings or townhouses within a quarter mile of a CTA stop, but does not include stops near Austin Boulevard.
Trustees expanded the ordinance to any development west of Lombard Avenue along Madison Street.
Trustees also increased the lifespan of the affordability of units built within luxury apartment developments. The proposal from village staff would have set the affordable rate for 25 years, but trustees increased that to 30.
The ordinance was approved by five of the seven board members — Trustee Dan Moroney and Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb voted no.
Moroney said he opposed the ordinance because the requirement would stifle development on Madison Street and along the CTA Blue Line. He noted that Mohr Concrete, 915 S. Maple Ave., recently went on the market and could be a major development opportunity for the village, arguing that an affordable housing requirement could deter developers.
Trustees should instead “allow that area to mature more before laying on restrictions that certainly don’t spur development in that corridor,” he said.
Moroney has argued that more affordable housing is not needed in the village.
Mayor Abu-Taleb agreed with Moroney, saying that the inclusion of Madison Street in the affordable housing requirement “killed it for me.”
The suggestion to include Madison Street on the map came from Trustee Simone Boutet, who argued that Madison Street was a big focus of development for the board. “I think we have to look at what we have coming before us,” she said.
The ordinance also waives permit fees for affordable units that are placed in luxury buildings. Developers would be allowed greater density for including affordable units in a building.
A developer wanting to build 250 units, for example would have to include 25 affordable units in the building. They would, in turn be allowed to build an additional 25 units, putting the total number up to 275.
Prior to the ordinance, village staff has negotiated proposed developments on a case-by-case basis. Over the past few years, the affordable housing fund has amassed $1.5 million in contributions from developer.
Affordable housing advocates argued in favor of higher requirements.
Oak Park resident Amy Dean said the village gave developers and real estate agents the power to write the ordinance and did not seek input from the citizen-led Housing Programs Advisory Committee. “This ordinance is designed to fail, which is a travesty,” she said.
Affordable housing advocate Alicia Chastain said that the $1.5 million collected from developers, so far, would have been about $12.6 million had the ordinance been in place years ago when high-rises were beginning to be built in and around downtown.
She argued that developers have expressed their interest to continue developing in Oak Park, and not including Madison Street in the inclusionary zoning ordinance would mean that Jupiter Realty would not have to include affordable housing in its forthcoming senior living facility.
Rev. C.J. Hawking, pastor at Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church, said Oak Park lags behind other communities with its affordable housing requirement, noting that Chicago requires 10 to 20 percent affordable housing, New York 20 to 30 percent and Wilmette 15 percent. Evanston recently increased its in-lieu fee to $170,000 per unit, she said, arguing that Oak Park should institute a 15 percent affordable housing requirement and a $200,000 in-lieu fee.