Arlington Heights - making mixed-income development work in the northwest suburbs - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Arlington Heights - making mixed-income development work in the northwest suburbs

The Village of Arlington Heights is making good on its committment to quality, mixed-income housing that serves the needs of the village's current and future residents and workforce.

The Village of Arlington Heights is striving to create the kind of homes needed most by the community - housing affordable to the local workforce and residents on fixed-incomes that want to age in place. Looking to demonstrate that inclusive development can work in the suburbs, and provide affordable workforce housing side-by-side with market rate homes, the Arlington Heights Village Board approved Tandem Realty Corporation’s Timber Court condominium development on May 16th with a vote of six to three.  Their decision was based upon recommendations from the Plan Commission that approved the development in early April after three grueling late-night meetings, twelve hours of testimony and voluble opposition. Timber Court, a mixed-income development, includes 108 condominiums, and complies with recent village efforts to increase housing affordability and support sensible growth and innovative community development and design.

There is an extreme shortage of housing that is affordable to working families in the Chicago region. In Cook County, 18.4 percent of homeowners and 32.8 percent of renters pay over 30 percent of their household incomes on housing costs. In Arlington Heights, 13.9 percent of homeowners and 26.9 percent of renters are similarly cost-burdened. Increasingly, suburban towns like Arlington Heights are recognizing that the prices to purchase or rent in their areas are not just prohibitive to very low-income households, they are locking out many working-class families as well.

The Village of Arlington Heights, whose mayor was among the founders of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus Housing Task Force and whose Housing Commission is among the most active in the region, has demonstrated its leadership on the housing front in many symbolic ways, including adopting the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus' Housing Endorsement Criteria in 2002. These criteria support economic development and sustainability, improved housing options, and quality community design and construction near transit and employment. The Housing Endorsement Criteria have been implemented by several municipalities throughout the Chicago region to promote housing and mixed-use developments that meet community needs while also addressing broader sensible growth goals. Since their adoption, the village has been working to put these criteria into action.

Tandem Realty is one of the first developers to submit a proposal of this size that meets the village’s new criteria. The proposed site is surrounded by varying uses, including office, commercial, multi-family and single family houses. The location is accessible to transportation, just three miles north of the Arlington Heights train station and near three major highways. A bus system is currently being introduced to the village as well.

Tandem’s proposal is unique in that it provides Arlington Heights, and the neighboring area, with 21 affordable homes equally 20% of the total units. While all the condos are priced at entry level, bringing much needed diversity to the current housing stock, the affordable homes will be priced to be attainable to households at or below 80 percent of area median income. This translates to households in the income range of approximately $41,525 to $59,325, depending upon household size. The prices for affordable condos are set at $129,250 for one-bedrooms and $140,000 for two-bedrooms. The remaining one-bedroom condos are priced from the low $200s and the remaining two-bedroom condos are priced from the mid $200s. The design and quality of materials for the building are comparable to other market-rate projects recently completed in the area, including ample green space. There will be no design or material differentiation between market rate and affordable homes.

Observers of the board and plan commission meetings were surprised that even a town like Arlington Heights would face such opposition considering the strong leadership of its mayor and housing commission staff on local workforce housing development. The opposition towards Tandem’s proposal mostly centered on concerns about the developer’s request for an increase in density. However, as the Metropolitan Planning Council testified, increased density can have very positive impacts on a community as long as the development is well-designed and well-built. Applied appropriately, density can foster residents’ opportunity to live near work; local economic development; an increase in public transit service levels, and a more walkable community.

Among the other outspoken supporters of the Tandem proposal was Mark Lusson, vice president of human relations at Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH). NCH is among the region’s leaders in employer-assisted housing, and as Lusson stated in a letter to the Arlington Heights director of planning and community development, “this development would provide another avenue for recipients of our first-time homebuyer program. It also will provide the village with an affordable housing option."

The Metropolitan Planning Council will continue to support Arlington Heights and other municipalities working to create a more livable and attractive community. Through trainings, advocacy and technical assistance, MPC will support local planners and elected officials in making decisions such as these that will meet their overall housing goals and objectives.

If you are aware of a similar quality, mixed-income development in need of support, please contact Joanna Trotter , MPC housing associate, at 312-863-6008.

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