Lake Forest debates affordable housing

Lake Forest, Illinois is one wealthy suburb: according to the latest Census estimates, the suburb of 18,757 people has a median household income of $139,765 and owner-occupied homes are worth a median value of $900,000. The Chicago Tribune reports on some recent arguments over a small affordable housing project in the suburb – note, the suburb currently has about 7,188 housing units and one existing affording housing project with 5 units:

Five years ago, Lake Forest created an affordable-housing plan, acknowledging that high property values in the community were shutting out some seniors, families and education and health care workers, people who are “part of the fabric of daily life in Lake Forest,” from homeownership.

Almost two years ago, the city began working with the Lake County Residential Development Corp. to come up with a plan to construct affordable housing on less than 3 acres of city-owned land.

Last month, the City Council voted down the Settler’s Green project and directed its housing trust to modify the plan, which would have brought one market-rate and 15 affordable single-family rental homes to the northwest corner of Everett and Telegraph roads. In doing so, Lake Forest walked away from $6 million in Illinois Affordable Housing Tax Credits.

On one hand, it is good that the community is thinking about this issue. On the other hand, when push comes to shove in terms of approving even a small project on just 3 acres of land with 15 affordable housing units, people do not want the project. Additionally, the affordable housing project seems to have been aimed not at lower-income or minority residents but rather at “some seniors, families and education and health care workers.”

Some other figures suggest that Lake Forest needs more than just 5 units of affordable housing – there are plenty of workers in the area who make little money but need housing:

Last year, in a presentation to the Metropolitan Planning Council, Morsch noted that more than two-thirds of the work force in Lake Forest, Highland Park, Northbrook, Deerfield and Highwood earns less than $50,000 a year, meaning they can afford only 3 percent of the local housing stock.

It would be easy to categorize this as another case of NIMBY where citizens in the well-off community just don’t want land to be used in a way that is inconsistent with what already exists. But, this is not just an issue in Lake Forest. There are some deeper issues involving social class and race embedded in this issue of affordable housing in the suburbs.

One thought on “Lake Forest debates affordable housing

  1. Pingback: Why Americans love suburbs #6: local government, local control | Legally Sociable

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