Our communities are now in the maw of IHDA, which does not recognize home rule exemptions, even though the law does not preempt it. Some communities have asserted home rule. Evanston is not on the list, as it has numerous rental properties, but even in Evanston there is debate about a new plan. And then there's this story. Evanston Review:
Projected costs for a controversial Church-Darrow housing project are high, but not out of line with other projects that use similar finance models, a city consultant said Tuesday.
The Wilmette-based Housing Opportunity Development Corp., a not-for-profit group, is the developer on the four-story, rent-to-own affordable housing project. The corporation wants to construct 27 units at 1708-1710 Darrow Ave., and at 1800-1805 Church St.
Called in to analyze the proposal, Martin Stern, the city's consultant on some economic development projects, told members at Tuesday's special Planning and Development Committee meeting that the $259,000-per-unit cost is higher than the average $136,5000 figure set for such projects by the Illinois Housing Development Authority, the funding organization.
"However, the conditions for the Darrow Corners project are unique," Stern said, referring to land costs and other expenses. He also said the developer's fee is not out of line, taking into account salaries, overhead and other real costs not recognized in the budget.
During questioning from residents, Stern said he didn't disagree costs are high. But Stern, voicing a personal view, said affordable housing in itself is "inefficient."
"You don't get enough housing for the dollars you put in," he said.
Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, referred to Stern's report as a response to concerns raised at the committee's May 3 meeting. Jean-Baptiste has been one of the project's staunchest supporters from the start, along with 5th Ward Alderman Delores Holmes.
At the May 3 session, Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, called attention to financial arrangements in the project, which is funded by the sale
of low-income housing tax credits.
Under its statement of understanding on the project, Housing Opportunity Development Corp. is to receive $840,000 in up-front fees, Rainey noted, splitting 15 percent with the Evanston Community Development Corp., which is to receive roughly $125,000.
"When was the last time you got this kind of windfall?" she asked Richard Koenig, Housing Opportunity's executive director and the point person on the Darrow Corners project.
Koenig said the fee is for "taking on the risk" of the development.
In response to questions from Rainey, he said the organization relies on the funds in between projects.
Fee for another project
Asked by Rainey what the organization received from an earlier affordable housing project, at 319 Dempster St., Koenig estimated the fees ran between $300,000 and $400,000.
Meanwhile, Rainey noted that the Wilmette corporation had approached the city recently for help in financing a new housing counselor position.
"You're doing well," Rainey said. "I think we're going to have to start asking you for money."
Money up front to politically well-connected developers. Subsidized housing for a small, preferred group of people, (village employees?) raising everyone else's taxes, straining young families and seniors who want to stay in their own homes. And how will the buildings be maintained in the long run? A better approach is to reign in village costs and cut taxes to residents so they can afford to buy their own homes, or choose to spend the money on other priorities.
Company towns went out of style over a hundred years ago.