We can't afford affordable housing here

Opinion: Letters To The Editor

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I am writing with my and many neighbors' concerns about the large building proposed for the corner of Oak Park and Van Buren by The Community Builders (TCB). They have held two community meetings to discuss the building and "take our temperature" about it. In neither of the meetings did TCB mention the zoning variance they are requesting for 21 additional apartments to be built there (37 instead of the 16 that zoning would allow). Because of their avoidance of the most critical variance, they have been duplicitous with the community.

The building would sorely overcrowd the area, a conclusion we had come to before we saw TCB's variance request on the Plan Commission's Sept. 6 meeting agenda on its website. Overcrowding: We can expect 50-70 people to be put up on the corner if 37 apartments are allowed, which would double the number of people residing in two adjacent blocks (in houses and apartments) on both sides of Oak Park Avenue.

This is untenable and unnecessary. As one neighbor posited at the meeting, "What good are 20 apartments, 25, 30, 35 or 37 apartments at that site?" No one offered an answer, though it seemed that all of the Oak Park committees were favorable toward TCB's proposal. Since the building will be totally Section 8 or otherwise subsidized, the larger the number of units, the greater the monthly check from the government.

At the Plan Commission meeting, concern was also for depressing property values in the community. Realtors we have asked say values will most likely drop 25-35%. 

One little house that has been occupied for 20 or more years by a neighbor will be hurt much more. When the owner asked about being compensated, he was derided. A commission member said real estate is speculative to start with and intimated that having been beside a gas station before, he shouldn't have an issue. But yes he should and we all should. The size and type of the building proposed will be a disaster for the area.

I have lived in Oak Park 42 years in my house (two blocks from the site). When I came, Oak Park had the Equity Assurance program for homeowners, which helped stabilize the community. It has been long gone because we bought into the community, not speculatively, but trusting that the village would always do what is best for its residents. We ask the commission and the board to do what is best for us, not overcrowd us and drive down our property values.

Yes, support low wage earners, but adhere to practices that work and reject this. Disperse units throughout Oak Park and not concentrate them on an extremely small lot for the benefit of speculating investors and developers.

Thelmare Varnado

Oak Park 

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Neal Buer  

Posted: September 18th, 2018 9:06 PM

I would ask everyone to visit the site, and imagine (an Oak Park word) 37 families with 60 people or more, and 23 parked cars. Then form your own opinion if this is a well thought out plan for this lot.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: September 18th, 2018 6:24 PM

Tom - excellent point. This is the irony of it all. Very well intentioned but reality is tough. Add many more apartments - school ratio/quality declines - makes it less attractive for families who pay taxes and quality of schools deteriorates -

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: September 18th, 2018 6:10 PM

The entire idea of so called affordable housing in this town is insane. People want their current housing to be more affordable, and that only happens when taxes go down. Instead we get taxed more to subsidize housing for projects like this. Adding people who already can not afford to live here without subsidies just adds more taxes and less affordability on every one else here in town. Stop pouring gas on the fire.

Christopher Bell  

Posted: September 18th, 2018 5:57 PM

The reality is Oak Park has few options left of which none are appealing. Due to fiscal situation Oak Park has few moves left. The current strategy is to offset costs by addinng 500-1000 more apartments to city (10-12% ) pop increase or raise taxes .... raising taxes would further put oak park out of reach for many families .... for example, one my block a house has $24,000 in property taxes is for sale .... don't know many young couple that can afford $7-8k month fully loaded ... The other option is to no aggressively pursue apartments ... but politically would be unacceptable.... so, this is our situation. Either build these or taxes go up even more ....

Dan Lauber  

Posted: September 18th, 2018 5:56 PM

By the way, at least 18 studies have concluded that affordable housing developments such as this have no effect on property values -- although there are situations where new affordable housing developments increase the value of neighboring property. There are very limited circumstances under which property values may be negatively affected -- this proposed development is not one of those. Facts do matter.

Dan Lauber  

Posted: September 18th, 2018 5:43 PM

So I guess that since you want affordable housing scattered throughout Oak Park, you'll support an effective inclusionary zoning ordinance that achieves exactly that.

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