The St. Thomas Housing Alliance Ministry has been advocating for more affordable housing in Naperville for at least four years. The Alliance has been working with the Naperville Housing Advisory Commission (HAC), participating in meetings and meeting with individual commission members.
Step Forward for Affordable Housing
Another study paid for by the city once again indicated the need for affordable housing and made many recommendations. (Naperville has been in violation of an Illinois law requiring 10% affordable housing for many years. The city is currently at 7.5%.) The Housing Alliance worked with the Housing Advisory Commission to identify eight recommendations that were advanced to the City Council. (See below.) Numbers 5, 7 and 8 are high on the priority list. We will now advocate with the City Council to proceed with the recommendations. When the time comes we may ask parishioners to attend a City Council meeting in support of the recommendations.
Of course, the playing field continually shifts. In reaction to the racial unrest, the Council is forming a Human Rights Commission — and will fold the Housing Advisory Commission into the new commission. That is not all bad. However, in the first Council discussion it seemed that most viewed this as a reactive commission (dealing with complaints) as opposed to a proactive commission to improve housing and the racial unrest situation. And some are debating the need for a dedicated staff person. If all the commission did was respond to complaints, there wouldn’t be a need for a dedicated person. The next step is to fashion a job description for this person that focuses on proactive duties related to human rights and affordable housing.
Housing Advisory Recommendations to City Council
1. Develop working relationships with affordable housing developers.
2. Develop a strategy to leverage publicly owned land to address housing challenges.
3. Develop a specific plan to preserve “Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing.”
4. Establish additional resources to assist populations with special housing needs.
5. Create a specific staff position within the city to address housing issues.
6. Establish a rehabilitation loan fund to help low income senior homeowners make repairs so they can age in place.
7. Establish a housing trust fund to help veterans, seniors, populations with special housing needs, and first responders (including nurses, police officers, and firefighters) purchase a home.
8. Implement an inclusionary zoning ordinance that would require developers to include a percentage of affordable units in their projects or contribute to a fund to support affordable housing.