Park Ridge suggests strategies to meet affordable housing goal; will use carrot instead of stick

The Park Ridge City Council gave feedback on a draft plan to attract more affordable housing at the Jan. 22 Committee of the Whole Meeting.

Director of Community Preservation and Development Drew Awsumb laid out eight strategies in which Park Ridge could increase the amount of affordable housing in the city. Illinois law requires most municipalities to have 10% of their housing be priced at affordable levels, usually 60% of the area median income for renters and 80% for homebuyers.

Of the eight strategies presented to the council, none included a controversial inclusionary zoning ordinance, which would have required developers to add affordable housing units to any projects they were developing Park Ridge. Several alderpersons said introducing one would only keep developers out of the city.

City Council members favored providing developers with incentives to build affordable housing units instead of requiring developers by law to build those units.

“There’s really no right or wrong answer,” said Awsumb, referring to inclusionary zoning. “Park Ridge could pick either option, the mandatory one or the incentive one, and you will see developers participate in both.”

Awsumb added that at least 50 other communities are also working on increasing their percentage of affordable housing and that developers will want to be able to build housing with or without inclusionary zoning.

Park Ridge’s existing affordable housing stock sits at 8.1% of housing units.

The strategies in the draft plan include:

  • Introducing a demolition and developer impact fee to fund affordable housing programs.

  • Engaging with employers to consider an employer-assisted housing program.

  • Creating a first-time homebuyer assistance program for public service employees such as police, firefighters, teachers and health care workers.

  • Creating a homeowner assistance program for seniors who wish to “age in place.”

  • Developing voluntary inclusionary housing programs to incentivize developers to build affordable housing.

  • Increasing Planned Unit Developments to incentivize the inclusion of affordable housing.

  • Recruiting senior apartment building developers.

  • Assessing the current affordable housing stock near Touhy Avenue, Northwest Highway, and Busse Highway corridors to promote and encourage the existing affordable housing.

The next step for the affordable housing plan would be for Awsumb to submit a final proposal to the City Council on Feb. 20 so alderpersons can vote on whether to adopt its plan to the city’s code. The city would file the plan with the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

From 2024 to 2025, the potential strategies will be implemented into the plan, and an updated plan will be submitted to the Illinois Housing Development Authority in June of 2025.

In December of 2028, the Illinois Housing Development Authority will release an updated report of local governments who are not complying with the state’s law requiring a minimum of 10% its housing stock be marketed as affordable.

Mayor Marty Maloney and Alderman Rick Biagi were not present at Monday’s meeting.