Affordable housing, goes the rap, winds up in Oak Park’s less desirable neighborhoods. We don’t fully buy that as Madison & Grove and Oak Park & Van Buren, the sites of two recent affordable housing developments, seem like strong and vital neighborhoods to us.
That said, it is harder to place affordable projects right in downtown Oak Park with higher property values, desirable access to public transit and sought-after walkability. That’s why we’re pleased to see that a classic, though troubled and shabby, six-story apartment hotel on Lake Street, just across the street from the main library, is being restored while also being maintained as reasonably affordable units with small studios starting at $800.
Oak Park’s village board on Monday night OK’d a $260,000 grant to the developers to allow construction of a new elevator which had been strongly urged by the fire department. The additional elevator will allow more disabled and emergency access to the building, which both bolsters safety and expands the potential mix of residents.
The building’s owner, as part of a pact with the village to win the elevator grant, guarantees that a minimum of 20 percent of the 64 units will remain affordable for at least 15 years. In recommending the grant to village government, the Oak Park Economic Development Corporation says it is likely that up to 85 percent of the units will remain affordable to renters at or below 60 percent of the area median income levels.
That is a strong number and a strong addition to affordable housing in Oak Park.