by Joanna Schneider •
This Letter to the Editor is from Gail Schechter, Executive Director of Open Communities. Letters to the Editor represent the writers’ opinions and not necessarily those of Daily North Shore.
Among concerns regarding an 18-acre development planned for construction on Skokie Boulevard, a lack of affordable housing is top of list for Open Communities’ Executive Director Gail Schechter.
Schechter spoke at a July 7 hearing, reminding officials and attendees of Northbrook’s commitment to affordable housing as part of its recent comprehensive plan.
On behalf of the organization, which advocates for inclusive communities and social justice in north suburban Chicago, Schechter submitted the following open letter to Daily North Shore for community consideration.
She highlights Northbrook’s current housing landscape and what the community can do to meet the affordable housing goals outlined as part of the Village’s Comprehensive Plan.
“The question is not why affordable housing, but rather: why not?” she writes.
The Plan Commission will reconvene Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall to discuss this and other related matters.
Letter to the Editor
“The question is not why affordable housing, but rather: why not?”
“Provide housing that meets the needs of the entire population of Northbrook” is the first priority listed in Northbrook’s Comprehensive Plan under “Neighborhoods, Housing & Community Diversity Goals & Strategies,” the Village’s “guide” for the next decade.
Northbrook knows it has a housing crisis. Housing prices are rising at a significantly faster rate than incomes. The Village documents that the home price-to-income ratio has increased from two to four in just 35 years. The housing for those with lower incomes in Northbrook is designated only for seniors. According to the State of Illinois, Northbrook’s affordable housing stock declined from 5.3 percent to 4.4 percent over the last 15 years, with only 522 out of over 12,000 housing units affordable to those earning between $40,000 and $60,000 per year.
Last year, Northbrook passed on a tremendous opportunity to ensure that the housing developed at the Northshore 770 development serves families at all income levels and family types. As it is now, 347 small, all-luxury rental units are slated to open in January 2016.
But it’s not too late for an 18-acre parcel of land directly to its south, 1000 Skokie Blvd.
Within a 30 minute ride on transit, 66,863 jobs are available from this address, according to the Center for Neighborhood Technology. And within this job rich area, many employers are within walking distance which cuts down on traffic and also benefits the environment.
Northbrook has an opportunity to make good on the promise of its Comprehensive Plan. It can tell LTF Real Estate Company that at least 15 percent of the 338 rental units must be affordable to the workforce. These 50 apartments would go a long way toward meeting Northbrook’s housing goals.
And the Village can tell the developer that having 70 percent of the units be one-bedroom apartments does not meet the spirit of Northbrook’s goal of diversity. With an estimated 100 people slated to work in the new 1000 Skokie Blvd. mixed-use complex, where will they and their families live?
Northbrook’s Plan Commission next public hearing about the 1000 Skokie Blvd. development plan is August 4th. In addition to the apartments, LTF plans to build a LifeTime Fitness luxury spa and a Children’s Learning Adventure luxury daycare center. They are asking for several zoning variations with no clear “public benefit” – a requirement in the granting of exemptions – in return for these exclusive amenities. Affordable housing could be a significant public benefit.
Open Communities, with over 70 north suburban partners, has launched the 2015 Justice Project: The March Continues as a platform for communities to become more just, open and welcoming to all. One way to get there is to have housing within the community that is attainable for all people.
We are asking the Village of Northbrook to follow through with its Comprehensive Plan and Affordable Housing Plan and foster affordable units in this robust location. The Village could work with the developer and groups like Open Communities on ways to make units affordable and it can reach out to people who work in the community and would like to live here, such as municipal employees.
In the process of leading this fruitful collaboration, the Village can market the Northbrook as, in President Sandy Frum’s words in a recent message to us, “a socially responsible, well-established and inclusive community.”
This letter also appeared in the Northbrook Patch.