Two stories in today’s Journal reflect the notable headway Oak Park is making in broadening our housing options for persons facing homelessness or those with limited financial means. The news here is in the response of residents to these housing initiatives and to their locations (or, in one case, potential location).

We’ve been waiting for the word that Housing Forward had extended its hold on the Write Inn hotel at 211 N. Oak Park Ave. Early in the pandemic, COVID made the overnight shelter model the agency had long relied on impossible. Housing Forward pivoted in an instant and secured a year’s lease on all the rooms at the Write Inn. It created stable housing for dozens and wrapped support services around each of those residents. 

The result has been remarkable. Seventy percent of the individuals who have come through the Write Inn have now transitioned into more permanent housing. Clearly this is the model the agency needs to make work for the long term. Federal COVID relief funding, passed through the village of Oak Park, has helped make this possible. The challenge is to keep it going.

Certainly we’re impressed, as we always are, by the leadership at Housing Forward. But we’ve also got high praise for the neighbors of the Write Inn who have taken all this in stride. Of course it works because Housing Forward is so good at what it does. But smack dab in the middle of Oak Park we have come to a point where a semi-permanent program to provide housing for people otherwise facing homelessness is accepted.

It was not too many years back that some neighbors of The Grove, a planned affordable housing project at Madison and Grove, spun around backwards for months trying to block this splendid project. And this was for an effort that was reclaiming an empty and certifiably hideous commercial building.

More recently select neighbors of the handsome 801 Van Buren affordable apartment building got laughed out of court for filing a suit claiming the four-story building would deprive them of airflow and sunshine. NIMBY-ism on steroids.

In a second story this week, Stacey Sheridan also reports that the Oak Park Regional Housing Center has purchased its longtime office space on South Boulevard near Marion Street. The plan — and it’s early in the discussions — is to add a mix of affordable and market-rate housing in either an expanded or redeveloped project on the site.

Housing Center leadership has a lot of work ahead of it as it chooses a development partner and crafts its plan. But the idea of adding this project in the heart of the greater downtown Oak Park area is invigorating.

It works against the bromide that Oak Park will only place affordable projects in less toney parts of the village. Time for that idea to be retired.

This is what progress looks like.

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