Affordable in downtown

Opinion: Editorials

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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.

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Reader Comments

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Tommy McCoy  

Posted: February 5th, 2020 11:37 AM

The Fire Department always looks at all developments to make sure they adhere to the Fire Code. An elevator is not one of them. Bring in the Chief, to be used to support the project just appears to be a support of the project. The Chief only explained what the benefits would be of having an elevator. There was no mention if the building will have direct and battery back up fire and carbon monoxide monitor's, or if each unit will have a fire suppression system, of if the exterior door's will have 2 hour fire rated door's. No, it was only about an elevator. When it came to the safety or responding to emergency's and the problem with cul de sac's, that was left at a thank you and moved to a discussion about Rat's. People like nice stories and would rather except them. A studio apartment at 800 dollars a month is not affordable to a lot of people who would like to move to Oak Park to get out of a continuous circle of poverty. You can get a room on Central for about half of what a supposedly affordable studio is going to cost, and that is a limited offer that may be able to change before the 15 year obligation has been met

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: February 5th, 2020 11:11 AM

I heard a rumor the elevator only goes down.

Kevin Peppard  

Posted: February 5th, 2020 7:25 AM

Tom MacMillan: The money puts a lien on the property, so any future owner will inherit the obligation. As to the source of the funds, money is fungible, so any tracing is really just an illusion. There will now be less money from the General Fund available to use for other purposes and it must be made up in higher taxes..Remember how Lottery proceeds were to used to fund education? Unless any effort has the funds given to that project indexed to some measure of inflation, it just means there is more money to give to unrelated pork barrel schemes.Try to follow the pea in the shell in this game.

Tom MacMillan from OAK PARK  

Posted: February 4th, 2020 11:51 PM

Will the 12 affordable units be on the 1st floor, so will they even need an elevator? If the building owner is already cashed strapped, will he even be around in 15 years to honor any agreements made? Is the quoted price on the elevator the lowest cost to add that? Was this the only way the town could provide more affordable housing? What was the big rush on giving away this money? Is the building owner up to date on his property tax payments? Why does this building get to have a free, bigger elevator, when so many other buildings in town don't even have an elevator? Why are trustees redistributing citizens money, if they are going to spend just 30 minutes deciding these things? Why do we pretend the funds came from "developers" when it really comes from citizen tenants in other buildings?

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