Affordable housing in suburbia

This recent article from the Chicago Tribune discusses Naperville’s efforts to provide affordable housing. The opening paragraph sets up the issue:

“Naperville officials are grappling with how best to achieve two goals that sometimes are in direct conflict: adding more affordable housing for low- and moderate-income senior citizens and residents with disabilities while not costing the cash-strapped city budget anything extra.”

This is not a unique issue to many suburbs, particularly those with little or no remaining land for greenfield development. However, the position of Naperville is instructive of the issue in suburbia: Naperville leaders are most interested in providing affordable housing for a different group than many may think when they hear the term “affordable housing.” Rather than looking to build housing for low to middle income workers who can’t buy into Naperville’s relatively expensive market, the city wants housing for the elderly and the disabled.

In both cases, these two groups primarily already live in Naperville – and affordable housing would help them stay there. This is an issue particularly for the elderly: once retired, high property taxes often make it difficult to remain in a suburban home. Downsizing within one’s long-time community would often be desirable rather than having to move away after retirement. A suburban community that consistently loses its older residents may lose touch with its past and become known as a more transient place.

The rest of the article also describes critiques of Naperville’s planning from a local housing group, DuPage United.

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