Oak Park earmarks $1M for affordable housing

Funds collected from various development projects


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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

More than $1 million will be funneled to various affordable housing efforts in Oak Park, including $500,000 to a recently proposed 37-unit building at the corner of South Oak Park Avenue and Van Buren Street.

The $500,000 for the proposed $14.6-million building by Boston-based Community Builders Inc., at 801 S. Oak Park Ave., makes up just part of the funding for the development. 

Community Builders recently secured housing tax credits through the Illinois Housing Development Authority, according to Kirk Albinson, project manager with Community Builders.

The village also gave preliminary approval send about $500,000 to Housing Forward and the Oak Park Homelessness Coalition. About $268,000 would be used to create a rental assistance program at the Raymond Showalter Residence, 324 N. Austin Blvd.

Housing Forward aims to create a five-year lease at the Showalter building – the money would be used to renovate the units. Another $230,000 would go to fund the general assistance program for people who are homeless or on the verge of being homeless.

The affordable housing fund also would make a loan of about $750,000 to $1 million to Mercy Housing for its rental housing project initially planned for Madison Street and Highland Avenue. 

That project called for 69 affordable units at that location, but a memo in the village board's July 30 meeting packet indicated the location of that development might change.

"While it does not appear that Mercy Housing will be able to obtain site control of the property initially proposed, the proposed development could take place in other areas in the village," the memo states.

While trustees largely supported plans for the affordable housing funds, some questioned the funding slated for Housing Forward and the Oak Park Homelessness Coalition.   

Trustee Deno Andrews said he worried about funding a program that did not have a regular funding stream.

"We're opening a long-term commitment and not thinking of the long-term financing," he said.

That would pose a difficult decision for a future board of trustees to cut a program for homeless people, Andrews said. 

Tammie Grossman, director of the village's Development Customer Services Department, said funding for the program could continue with money from new developments coming online. 

She said the residential tower being built by Lexington Homes in the 900 block of Madison Street is expected to bring in about $210,000 for affordable housing, she said.

The village also could use funds from Mercy Housing, once the developer begins repaying its million-dollar loan, Grossman added.

"I'm not suggesting we don't do good now, but we shouldn't fund it without a plan," Andrews said. 

Trustee Bob Tucker said he did not see the funding as the establishment of an ongoing program per se, but rather a one-time grant. 

"We're going to help some people and do some real good," Tucker said. "If it's a tough decision for a future board, then it's a tough decision."

The board chose not to fund a $750,000-request from the West Cook YMCA to convert 40 of its single-room units to 23 studio apartments. It also rejected a $500,000 request from the Oak Park Residence Corporation to develop an affordable housing generation fund to create new affordable housing units in multi-family apartment buildings.

* This article was updated to correct the source of $210,000 headed to the village's affordable housing fund.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Aletra Nicholson from Oak Park  

Posted: August 5th, 2018 9:32 AM

I hope this affordable housing is for families. I know several families that need 2-4 bedrooms that are being priced out of oak park. Diversity should include socioeconomic class.

Ray Traynor  

Posted: August 5th, 2018 9:20 AM

Very much a Madigan type statement, not worrying about the future ramification of today's decisions

Paul Clark  

Posted: August 5th, 2018 9:20 AM

Neal .... yes, that seems to be how it works. The developer, if it sets aside units for affordable housing, will have to price the remaining units differently. If the developer pays into a fund, it will price all units differently, i.e., higher. (Note that I got C's in Econ in college and also that I continue living in OP even when my property taxes have gone up annually five times more than what my income has gone up.)

Alice Caputo  

Posted: August 2nd, 2018 9:22 PM

These well meaning acts of social engineering have a long history of failure. Adding development fees only increases the cost of living for everyone and creates less affordable housing. San Francisco and other coastal California cities are unable to reverse the results of years of nanny state politics.

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: August 2nd, 2018 9:05 AM

@Jeff - I would like it if our so called trustees worried about actual current citizens of Oak Park. They take increasing amounts of tax money from the actual current citizens, and they "fund" (spend is such a messy word) it for housing for people who are not living in Oak Park yet. Our taxes go up and current citizens find that their homes and apartments are less affordable, so we can subsidize someone else's lifestyle. They also make new housing projects more expensive for some buyers who are forced to subsidize others in their building. As a goal, adding new people coming in who already can't afford to live here will only further drain our existing services, leading to further subsidizing, which makes no sense at all. We need less tax burden. Tax money being spent should benefit everyone, not some chosen pet project. There is affordable housing all around us already, in Chicago and other suburbs. This issue affects all Oak Parkers of all races, as it makes all the rents and housing costs higher with higher taxes.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: August 2nd, 2018 8:54 AM

That's a fine example of race-baiting, Jeffrey. You're trying too hard.

Jeffrey Smith  

Posted: August 2nd, 2018 8:05 AM

Would everybody like it better if all the affordable housing was for white people? "Affordable housing" like "urban" is often used as code for people of color by those who - um - aren't comfortable around people of color.

Neal Buer  

Posted: August 1st, 2018 6:51 PM

Paul, so the buyer in a new development subsidizes affordable housing?

Paul Clark  

Posted: August 1st, 2018 4:40 PM

I attended the informational meeting held earlier this year on affordable housing initiatives in other communities, like Evanston. To simplify, the idea is that new developments would be approved only if the new development either set aside a certain number of units for low-income tenants, OR the developer kicked in a certain amount of money, basically representing the cost of affordable units over a period of time. There is scant evidence of the success of these programs anywhere and developers for the most part prefer to kick in money rather than set aside units. The one question I raised at the meeting that wasn't really answered was, isn't controlling property tax increases a form of earmarking funds for affordable housing. Likely new Cook County assessor and Oak Park resident Fritz Kaegi was also at this meeting so maybe he will have thoughts on more equitable ways to make housing affordable.

Neal Buer  

Posted: August 1st, 2018 9:38 AM

It is unfortunate that the trustees (sic) think the taxpayers in this village have unlimited funds to use on their pipedreams. Funding affordable housing makes housing unaffordable for the people who already live here. Very sad.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: July 31st, 2018 11:21 PM

Tom: but then when I can't afford all this good stuff, and forced to leave Oak Park, I will come back since I will be eligible to live in "affordable housing" thanks to good folks like you paying for all this free stuff.

Tom MacMillan  

Posted: July 31st, 2018 5:51 PM

Lets fund enough housing for 10,000 extra people who can't afford to live here, to be here. Then lets fund additional classrooms for all the kids that adds. Then lets fund extra teachers and pensions for all those extra classrooms. Better sprinkle in extra administrators to manage those teachers. Then lets fund more social workers and put them in he schools and library. Then lets fund a Township that gives everyone free sandwiches and free Pace bus rides. Then lets fund free bicycles for everyone. And finally, lets fund an Olympic pool with seating for 600, for the 90 kids on the swim team, because it is only $100 million and it is an equity issue. Anyone who can't afford all that funding should leave.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: July 31st, 2018 5:38 PM

Affordable and adaptable housing for people dealing with disabilities has long been promised by this and past Village boards. Is there any contract provision or commitment by either of these planned developments to address that need?

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: July 31st, 2018 3:45 PM

First of all, I have no problem with funding the agencies mentioned here. But I am concerned with the comments of Ms. Grossman that they should be able to continue this funding through monies coming from new developments. At what point, is the Village going to consider some kind of tax relief for its existing homeowners? Why can't some of these new developments provide relief to existing homeowners. Our current property bill increase (approximately 20%) was the largest our family has experienced in the thirty-plus years we have lived in Oak Park.

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