For two days in early November, MPC convened a group of regional experts to assist the City of Rolling Meadows address the affordability and relocation challenges associated with a substantial redevelopment effort.
It was just 50 years ago that developer Kimball Hill founded Rolling Meadows to be an affordable town for working class families. Today, the city has been successful in attracting new economic growth and is finding that a fragile balance exhists between improving the economic base and retaining the character of the community. Recognizing that economic development and housing go hand in hand, the city has voiced its commitment to keeping at least 20 percent of its stock affordable and retaining its “blue collar” roots. This commitment has been tested recently by a redevelopment effort near the Schaumburg boarder that can potentially displace over 600 Rolling Meadows families.
12 Oaks at Woodfield is a residential property located on 36-acres, consisting of 692 affordably priced 1950’s garden-style apartments. Currently, the owner has a signed contract on the property with a national residential developer that is interested in creating a more compact mixed-use community. To determine its optimal role in this private market transaction, the city asked MPC to bring together experts in the fields of urban planning, real estate development, housing finance, policy, advocacy, communications, and law to provide the city with tools to help preserve the affordable character of the city and serve existing Woodfield tenants, while also supporting economic and residential development on this site and throughout Rolling Meadows.
While this property carries no rental subsidies, its market prices are affordable to many working families in Rolling Meadows who are employed in the area. These precious rental homes constitutes one-third of the city’s affordable housing stock, and eight percent of the city’s entire housing stock. The site is located less than one-mile from many large employers including Schaumburg ’s Woodfield Mall, Motorola, and IKEA. Homes are located conveniently, connecting tenants to shopping, employment, transit and highly-ranked schools. At the same time, given this prime location, by many standards, the property is underutilized with the building comprising a relatively small portion of the site overall. The city has recognized this challenge for many years, highlighting its redevelopment potential as far back as their 1993 Comprehensive Plan.
Just recently, with the hiring of a new City Manager, Tom Melena, the city began to explore 12 Oaks at Woodfield to determine its best land use. According to The Lakota Group, the city’s planning consultant, the site can comfortably house 1400-1600 homes and 1500-4000 square feet of commercial space. While the prospects of new residential and economic development hold great potential for the city, the market for this type of product will substantially increase housing and retail space costs, making it largely unaffordable for both current residential and commercial tenants.
Members of the MPC Rolling Meadows Task Force were charged with providing the city with tools to maximize the number of affordable homes in the new development, address the needs of tenants as they find new housing in the city and surrounding areas, and implement policies that will create more affordable choices throughout Rolling Meadows both for current Woodfield Gardens tenants and other low- to moderate-income families. Several Task Force members came back to present to the Rolling Meadows City Council on November 15th, 2005.
Some key recommendations to the city included requiring the developer, as part of the city’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) approval process, to incorporate 20 percent (280 to 320) of the new homes to be affordable, both rental and for-sale. The Task Force suggested that the city assist with engaging an experienced affordable housing developer in a partnership to build a mixed-income rental building on the 12 Oaks site to help create some of the 280 to 320 city-required affordable homes. Also, the city was advised to address the net loss of affordable homes through a developer contribution, or in-lieu fee, which can seed a Housing Trust Fund and/or a Community Land Trust to build and preserve housing at below-market prices throughout Rolling Meadows. A trust fund or land trust could function on an inter-jurisdictional level in collaboration with Arlington Heights, Palatine, Schaumburg and other neighbors.
A citywide inclusionary housing policy was highly recommended by the task force to codify the city’s commitment to ensuring 20 percent of its stock remains affordable. A inclusionary housing policy would be an effective tool to incorporate affordable homes in all new development, major rehabilitation, and condominium conversions.
To address the needs of and provide opportunities for existing 12 Oaks tenants, the Task Force advised the city to contract with an experienced non-profit group to provide tenant counseling and support. Employer-Assisted Housing, again in partnership with neighboring municipalities, was also recommended as an effective tool that Rolling Meadows can promote to engage the private sector in investing in city-wide housing options and providing more homeownership opportunities for the tenants. Also as part of the PUD negotiation process, the city may require the current owner to use federal relocation guidelines while vacating the property.
Rolling Meadows is not a unique case. Many suburban municipalities face challenges associated with older rental housing located on valuable land. The recommendations of the MPC Rolling Meadows Task Force are relevant for many other communities in the region, showing that there are ways that cities can address housing needs even in the midst of large redevelopment initiatives. The Task Force will be submitting a final, more detailed report to the City of Rolling Meadows at the end of 2005, and assisting with implementation as appropriate and feasible.
To view the presentation to the Rolling Meadows City Council, click here.
Review local news coverage on this effort:
Chicago group helps city's housing goals, Pioneer Press
City to help 12 Oaks residents, Daily Herald