A fantastic Chicago Tribune article this Sunday, by Sharon Stangenes, led with the story of Carla Gardner, a 72-year-old lifelong North Shore resident who has been able to continue to live in Lake Forest thanks to the city’s efforts to balance its housing stock. Gardner, who raised three children and ran a business on the North Shore, is emblematic of the residents Lake Forest is serving through its comprehensive plan to increase the supply of affordable homes, particularly near jobs and public transportation.
Since 2005, MPC has been working with Lake Forest to develop a plan that MPC’s Robin Snyderman calls "a model for other communities" and an "impressive" illustration of "good stewardship.” The plan includes:
- A Housing Committee
- Demolition tax, with a portion of the revenues dedicated to a trust fund for affordable housing
- City goal of 15 percent of affordable units in all new developments or redevelopments
- Expedited or reduced cost of permit fees for affordable projects
- Promotion of employer-assisted housing
Now on the table is a proposal to build 16 two- and three-bedroom homes, 15 of which will be rented for less than $1,000 a month. In January, the development began a public review and approval process as a first step toward consideration by the Lake Forest City Council.
The article also alluded to Lake Forest’s partnership with its neighbors Highland Park, Northbrook, Deerfield and Highwood, as well as area employers, through the Charter One Workforce Housing Initiative. The initiative is cultivating innovative solutions to help local workers afford homes in the communities in which they work every day. Their numbers are many: Sixty-nine percent of the workers in these towns earn less than $50,000 a year, but only 13 percent of homes are affordable to them.
As MPC President MarySue Barrett noted in a recent Crain’s Chicago Business op-ed, support from local employers has played a key role in workforce housing solutions. Baxter International Inc., Walgreen Co., Lake Forest College and Lake Forest Hospital, which together employ more than 11,000 workers at their north suburban campuses, have strongly backed the proposed Lake Forest development. Each provided testimony to the City Council, countering fears spread by some residents. Support from officials and employers persuaded the Illinois Housing Development Authority to award tax credits to lower the development's cost.
Employers noted the detrimental effects long commutes have on absenteeism, turnover, recruitment and morale. And they applauded Lake Forest leaders for "thinking strategically about the value of providing a range of housing options near jobs and transit, and for identifying qualified developers to build and manage these properties," said Donovan Pepper, Walgreen's local government relations manager.
Here’s to Lake Forest and its north suburban neighbors, as well as to local employers who have stepped up to address the jobs-housing mismatch. MPC continues to support their efforts, including by advocating for the Livable Communities Act to include incentives for employer-assisted housing.
You can help, too. Here’s how.