by Kathy Routliffe
firstname.lastname@example.org | @pioneer_kathy | Sept. 22 10:36 a.m
They’re happy with the $80,000, but they’re going after a bigger goal, Wilmette housing activists say; they want Itasca-based M&R Development to make 15 percent of the apartments it plans to build at 611 Green Bay Road to be affordable housing.
The way to convince the developer to do that may be to convince Wilmette officials to offer M&R the kind of development incentives needed to make affordable housing viable, Wilmette Cares president Lorelei McClure said Sept. 17.
McClure said she spoke informally with Anthony Russo, Sr. at the Sept. 9 village board meeting during which the deal was first officially introduced. And, she said, she and he agreed that putting affordable housing units into the 611 Green Bay mix would only be possible if Wilmette officials actively wanted it.
“They have done affordable housing elsewhere. They’re not opposed to affordable units per se,” McClure said of the developer, which most recently completed a low-rise retail-high end apartment mix on Evanston’s Central Street.
She said Wilmette Cares’ next move is to research the kind of specific incentives that Wilmette might offer M&R, to get the developer to include affordable units in the project: “We need to find out what would be attractive to them.”
Anthony Russo, Sr. confirmed on Sept. 15 that M&R has, in the past, undertaken projects in which it has included affordable housing units. But he cautioned those efforts had been done several years ago, when the economy allowed developers to complete much larger projects – those with 200 or more living units.
“And usually there was financing through HUD or something like that,” he said, referring to the federal department of Housing and Urban Development. M&R already has its financing in place for the Wilmette development, he said.
Today’s residential development market may be healthier than it was immediately after the recession hit in 2008, but it is still not robust enough to make it possible to include affordable housing in smaller developments, Russo added, especially since it will probably cost about $300,000 per apartment unit to develop a smaller effort like 611 Green Bay.
“When you only have 80-90 units in a project and you’re looking at rents, it’s really tough to put even one or two affordable units in,” he said.
While M&R hasn’t made a final determination of rents for the 94-96 units it plans to build, or what mix of square footage each unit would be, he said it would be reasonable to assume that rents per square foot would range between $2.20-$2.40.
“When you put medium income units in, you’re talking about rents of $1.20 to $1.30 per square foot,” he said.
Rossi said his team was happy to have donated $80,000 to the housing escrow account that supports Wilmette’s housing assistance program.
McClure said she assured Russo that Wilmette Cares members were also grateful for the donation, “but I told him we believe this did not respond to the greater issue of the need for affordable housing in our community.”
The village’s own comprehensive plan indicates an ideal goal of 15 percent affordable units in any housing project. Although officials like Village Manager Tim Frenzer and Community Development Director John Adler have stated that the 15 percent is not a concrete requirement, it will be Wilmette Cares’ goal, McClure said.
That message also went out Sept.16 from Open Communities, the Winnetka-based organization that researches and advocates for fair and affordable North Shore housing.
An email from Open Communities Executive Director Gail Schechter urged Wilmette residents to lobby for affordable housing at 611 Green Bay, by attending village meetings when the issue comes up, as well as by writing to Village President Bob Bielinski and other village board members.
“We need to advocate that a portion of the approximately 94 rentals be targeted to the low- and moderate-income market, and that all units be fully accessible,” Schechter wrote. “One hundred percent luxury units is 100 percent unacceptable.”
In her message, Schechter also reminded affordable housing supporters that they still need to lobby Wilmette for another goal; returning the housing assistance program that M&R’s $80,000 will support to the position of a fully municipally-funded effort. It’s currently slated for privatization once a private fundraising organization is up and running.
For the full article and pictures, see the Wilmette Life article.
Get involved to hold Wilmette accountable to its promise in its Comprehensive Plan, Affordable Housing Plan, and Village Center Master Plan to include affordable housing in new downtown multi-family developments. We need to advocate that a portion of the approximately 94 rentals be targeted to the low- and moderate-income market, and that all units be fully accessible.
Tell the Village Board that you thank them for negotiating the $80,000 HAP contribution, and you want them to sit with the developers at the drawing board to make at least 15% of all new units affordable, per the Wilmette Affordable Housing Plan, and all the units accessible. You can do that in several ways:
- Come to the Village Board meeting on Tuesday, September 23, at 7:30 pm, when the Village Board is slated to approve the contract. Just your presence will make a difference, whether or not you speak out.
- Write to the Village President Bob Bielinski and the Village trustees. Here are the email addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Send them a letter: Wilmette Village Board, 1200 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, IL 60091.
- Join Wilmette Cares to multiply your voices: Contact Lorelei McClure at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
If you are a congregation or community group, host a forum with Wilmette Cares about housing needs and housing options in Wilmette. Contact Lorelei McClure, chair of Wilmette Cares, email@example.com.