Affordable Housing Standards Going to Trustees in December

Affordable Housing Standards Going to Trustees in December

Northbrook’s Village Board will consider the recommendations of the Plan Commission on a new affordable housing policy on December 8, including a series Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code text amendments. The amendments under consideration have the stated goal of providing “affordable housing for low-to-middle income households in order to increase housing opportunities for a diverse population and to provide housing for those who live or work in the Village.”  A variety of requirements and incentives are incorporated to make affordable units part of new development proposals.

The standard of affordability is tied to the area median income (AMI) level for the Chicago-Joliet-Naperville HUD Metro Area.  Under the amendments, developments of five units or less are completely exempt.  New residential developments of six or more units would have to comply with a requirement to have at least 15 percent of its units as affordable, with those units subdivided into tiers to fit the attainability of different income levels.  For rental properties, the tiers set aside at least one-third of those units for households with income less than 50 percent of AMI, at least one-third for households with income between 50 and 79 percent of AMI, and no more than one-third for households between 80 and 100 percent of AMI. Developments of owner-occupied units would subdivide their 15 percent of affordable units with one-half for households less than 80 percent AMI and one-half between 80 and 120 percent AMI.

Developers of smaller single family subdivisions (between six and 19 dwelling units) need not provide units on-site. Instead, they may opt to make a cash payment-in-lieu of constructing some or all of the required 15 percent affordable units.  The per-unit amount for calculating an in-lieu payment will be based upon an estimate of the cost of providing an affordable housing unit.  Developers taking this option will be required to pay the per-unit amount multiplied by 15 percent of the total units in the development, less the number of affordable units actually provided in the project.  Fees collected will go into a Village fund to support housing goals.

The code amendments set a variety of standards to promote affordable units that are dispersed throughout the development as a whole and are substantially similar in exterior features. Residents are also to have comparable access to development amenities, such as parking, storage spaces, and services.

Developers will be able to take advantage of a range of incentives to offset the costs of below-market units.  In particular, the code allows for bonus density equal to one additional dwelling unit above the maximum that would otherwise be allowed in that zoning district for each affordable unit provided on-site. In addition, the code offers design flexibility with regard to lot size, setbacks, housing type, and other elements within the development. Developers may also receive Village fee waivers of up to 15 percent on affordable units they construct.

The proposed code requirements represent several months of work by Village staff, Board and Plan Commission members toward one of the primary goals set out by the Board at the start of 2020.  Comments from community members are invited prior to or during the public hearing on December 8.