The Skokie Village Board is considering a six-month moratorium on congregate living facilities in the village because of a spike in the amount of alternative housing for the developmentally disabled and elderly in Skokie.
“There has been an increase in the number of congregate living facilities and providers,” said Village Manager John Lockerby at the board’s July 21 meeting.
While staff recommends a moratorium on such facilities, allowing for time to study the current zoning regulations and make recommendations to the Village Board, the trustees’ action July 21 does not constitute a final decision about the moratorium. It authorizes more study and the drafting of a resolution at which time a decision about the moratorium could be made.
Since the mid 1970s, when Orchard Village opened the first residential facility for developmentally disabled residents on Marmora Avenue, the village has been “very supportive” of locating such alternative housing in Skokie, said Community Development Director Peter Peyer.
“Barriers to their development have been removed, and they are treated like other housing units,” Peyer said. “At present, with a few exceptions, a congregate living facility can be established with only an administrative permit when in compliance with (regulations).”
Peyer said there are currently seven organizations sponsoring 38 such facilities in Skokie.
“Although these facilities have not caused any unusual problems,” Peyer said, “an additional four facilities are currently planned and there is the potential for numerous additional facilities.”
Based on spacing requirements of 600 feet for each facility, more than 100 additional units could be developed in single family residential districts alone, he said.
“Staff also has concerns about a recent trend to rent the properties in which the facilities are located, and in one case the residents are being required to sign individual leases with the property owner, rather than one lease with the sponsoring agency,” Peyer said.
Skokie resident Gail Schechter, executive director of Open Communities (formerly Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs), opposes the village instituting a temporary moratorium against congregate living facilities.
Open Communities is the north suburban region’s fair and affordable housing advocate.
“Study, yes,” Schechter said. “Moratorium, no.”
“If the problem for which Skokie is seeking a solution — the segregation of housing for the elderly and people with disabilities — the answer is most emphatically not a moratorium,” she said. “It is engaging in a regional political solution to affirmatively further fair housing coupled with an unwavering enforcement of fair housing rights of individuals.”
Schechter said that Illinois is under three consent decrees to de-institutionalize people with disabilities.
“It’s a statewide issue that requires each and every community in Illinois to participate,” she said.
Evanston and Skokie are among the most diverse suburbs on the north shore — not because of their ordinances, Schechter said, but because they are the largest suburbs with the highest number of rentals. They have transportation networks and are accessible to Chicago. The smaller lot sizes and greater affordability make them valuable as locations for these units, she said.
“We can do this without a moratorium. Open Communities would like to work with Skokie on such a study.”
Peyer said the village study will include the definition of “congregate living” housing, permit versus special use classification, licensing requirements, occupancy limits, facility spacing and density, sponsoring agency requirements, property ownership versus rental, occupant qualification criteria and more.
The study would also include surveying other communities to determine their regulations on congregate living facilities, he said.
Mayor George Van Dusen said that the unanimous Village Board vote authorizes Corporation Counsel Michael Lorge to study the legal issues regarding congregate living facilities, but the moratorium has not yet been approved.
A resolution that could include a moratorium is likely to come back to the Village Board for a vote.