Towns' Responses to Affordable Housing Plan Deadline Mixed

By Komperda, Jack | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 21, 2005 | Go to article overview

Towns' Responses to Affordable Housing Plan Deadline Mixed


Komperda, Jack, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Jack Komperda Daily Herald Staff Writer

By the end of the month, several DuPage County towns are expected to file a plan with the state on how to address their shortfalls in the availability of affordable housing.

But local officials and planning experts aren't confident the proposals will make any headway in getting municipalities to comply with a new state law that aims to help low- and middle-income people find homes.

Forty-nine Illinois towns fell short of a new state law calling for 10 percent of the local housing stock to be made affordable - defined by the state as a home valued at $124,000 or a monthly rent of $775, or less.

By comparison, the 2000 Census cited DuPage County's median home value at $195,000.

DuPage towns failing to meet the state goals were Naperville, Oak Brook, Oakbrook Terrace, Winfield, Wayne, Burr Ridge and Hinsdale.

Those cities and villages are supposed to submit a plan by April 1 on how to bridge the gap, though some, including Naperville, intend not to do so.

Towns have three options: achieve 15 percent affordable housing in new developments, attain 10 percent affordable housing overall, or reach 3 percentage points higher than current levels.

Symbolic law

Proponents say the new law is meant to inspire creative solutions for addressing affordable housing shortages in the suburbs - not penalize towns for noncompliance.

Indeed, there are no penalties for communities that don't submit a plan this April.

"It's not a carrot-and-a-stick law," said Bryan Zises, spokesman for the Illinois Housing Development Authority. "The incentive is creating more affordable housing. It's only going to help the community."

But Charles Hoch, a professor at the University of Illinois- Chicago's Urban Planning and Policy Program, said the guidelines don't go far enough.

"No one likes this law, but it's what got passed because of politics," he said.

Hoch conducted a study late last year to determine how towns not meeting the affordable housing threshold were addressing the plan deadline.

Of the 49 towns on the state watch list, 20 either declined to be interviewed or didn't respond to his survey request.

"Many felt the law didn't affect them," Hoch said. "They're just scared because they believe the issue is divisive. That's been the political history."

Of the 29 towns that did respond, most public officials didn't believe the state mandate was fair or economically efficient, but many did admit it put affordable housing on the local policy agenda, Hoch said.

While the state mandate has brought the issue into the public spotlight, he said the 7,110 units that would be created by towns that do comply with the minimum requirement still won't be enough to meet future housing needs.

"The real incentive," Hoch said, "is to have sub-regional planning."

Local responses

Many municipal officials in DuPage County said there's no simple way for them to override market forces and bring more affordable housing into town.

Winfield Village President John Kirschbaum, whose town faces a deficit of about 10 affordable units, said the village's tiny staff simply doesn't have the resources to devote to the issue.

But there was no mention of affordable housing in a 30-acre residential development of about 255 condominiums and townhouses approved by the village just last month.

"In an area where property values are extremely high, how do you change and lower the bar? …

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