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Frequently Asked Questions about the

Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act

Why Do We Need the Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act at All?

There isnít enough housing affordable to professionals who work in our communities. Hardworking teachers, nurses, police officers, and firefighters, for example, simply do not earn as much as other professionals like doctors, lawyers and architects. Seniors are being priced out of the communities in which theyíve spent their lives, and young families canít afford to return to the communities where they grew up to raise their own children. The free market is instead serving more affluent families. This is fueled by high land values which make the tear-down of existing, modest homes more cost-effective than their preservation and re-sale to moderate-income families. The law helps strengthen the social fabric by ensuring that public servants can afford to live in and be a part of the communities they serve. It bolsters economic development by helping employers attract and retain workers who are able find housing closer to their jobs. It also allows working parents to live closer to their jobs, contributing to reduced commute times, traffic congestion, and air pollution.

Does This Law Mean Our Community Must Accept Public Housing? What does "affordable" mean?

No. This law has nothing to do with public housing. This law is about removing the barriers that prevent the private market from meeting the need for moderately priced housing. This is housing that is "affordable" to families earning between $42,000 and $57,000 per year Ė below the area median income for the region, but not poverty wages. This would mean homes, for example, in the $125,000 - $200,000 range.

How Does This Law Really Work?

The law requires all communities in Illinois with less than 10% affordable housing to approve and implement a housing plan by April 1, 2005. The Illinois law also creates a State Housing Appeals Board that can review developersí appeals if they feel their affordable housing proposal (at least 20% of these units would have to offered at the affordable price) has been rejected purely because of the affordable component. Any community that has met the affordable housing goal specified in its plan is automatically exempt from the authority of the State Housing Appeals Board, which would begin to hear cases in 2009.

Does This Law Subvert Local Control?

The State Housing Appeals Board can hear and overturn a local decision affecting an affordable housing development only if five conditions are met. First, a community under 10% affordable housing must fail to complete and implement an affordable housing plan by 2009. Second, a developer, must come forward with a proposal that includes 20% moderately priced housing as part of the development. Third, the developerís proposal must be denied. Fourth, the developer must decide to appeal the decision. Fifth, the developer must bear the burden of successfully proving to the State Housing Appeals Board that he or she was treated unfairly at the local level.

Does This Law Give Developers Carte Blanche in Our Community?

No. Developers will not profit if there is no market for their housing. Thatís why developers tend to propose projects that will be appealing and will fit with the character of the community. Further, the development must meet all local building codes. Developers cannot appeal denials made on the basis of health and safety codes or environmental protection.

Will This Affordable Housing Have a Negative Impact on Property Values?

No. Repeated research has shown that affordable housing has no negative impact on the price or frequency of sales of neighboring homes. A 1999 study by the Innovative Housing Institute examined every real estate transaction from 1992 to 1996 in 14 communities of Montgomery County, Maryland, and Fairfax County, Virginia. In both counties, the analysis revealed no difference in price behavior between market-rate homes located within 500 feet of a subsidized or affordable home and those market-rate homes farther away. It also found no difference in price behavior between market-rate homes located adjacent to affordable homes and those farther away.

Will This Affordable Housing Detract from the Character of Our Neighborhood?

No. Moderately priced housing must comply with the same building restrictions and design standards as market-rate housing. Experience from around the country and in the Chicago region with such mixed-income developments demonstrates that it is very difficult to distinguish market-rate homes from the "affordable" homes. In fact, the pictures below are all pictures of affordable housing.

Does This Law Push Seniors Aside?

No. In fact, this law can help create critically needed senior housing.

Wonít This Law Force Extra Expenses on Our Community?

This law creates no more expenses than market-rate developments. The Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act is a market-based tool.

Our Community Is Already "Built Out." We Have No Land For New Development. How Are We Supposed to Comply?

This law will not force communities to categorically accept new developments that include affordable housing. In fact, this law may have little impact on communities that are already "built out." Communities with little land could choose the goal of having 15% of all new development or redevelopment set aside as affordable. With this option, the development of affordable housing is tied to new growth or redevelopment. The Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act simply provides that as a community continues to grow or redevelop, it should work to include some moderately priced housing, making it possible for those who work in and serve the community to afford to live there, too.

How Can Non Home Rule Communities Comply with this Law?

While home rule units do have more local authority to adopt creative tools to comply with this law, non-home rule units can take a number of steps to plan for and create affordable housing.  Non-home rule units can use their zoning codes and city-owned parcels of land help the private sector create more moderately priced housing.  They can partner with willing non-profit and for-profit developers to access existing state and federal resources to create moderately priced housing.  They can also work with non-profit entities to create a community land trust that can help create and keep new housing affordable. 

Is This Another Unfunded Mandate from Springfield?

No. Communities can use their own local zoning and land use powers to comply with the law.  Further, there are a number of state and federal funding streams that can be used to provide subsidies to help create moderately priced housing for the local workforce.  Local municipalities can partner with nonprofit or for-profit developers to access funding. 

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