Nearly one in three homeowners and half of renters in the northern suburbs are struggling to afford their housing. This level of need is unprecedented in this Chicago sub-region, known for its strong job base. Today, 50,232 households are paying more than 35% of their incomes in housing costs compared to 22,444 in 1990.
Why has housing need worsened?
- One factor is catering exclusively to the luxury market. Since 1990, 26,700 homes and condos were developed, with the average sales prices rising 100% to $500,000. However, the region experienced a net loss of 4,000 rentals.
- The nature of housing as a financial investment, particularly in this lucrative region, fueled the burst of the housing bubble. Families at all incomes were leveraged over their head, and if they lost their jobs, they were stuck with unaffordable mortgages, their devalued houses becoming liabilities. More than 15,000 families in the northern suburbs have lost their homes to foreclosure since 2005.
- Misunderstanding and fear of mixed-income housing hurts everyone, including long-time residents. A popular perception is that affordable housing is an unfair tampering with the â€œfree market.â€ But there is no â€œfree market.â€
Government regulates everything from lot size to zoning districts, from traffic patterns to building materials. These restrictions affect the price and type of housing. A well- maintained, fully occupied housing stock is what raises property values, regardless of the income of those who live in it.
The result is a completely unbalanced local economy that favors those at the very top.
Different professions command different salaries. If we value the cashier as much as the banker, we can make room for them. We need to change our perspective on what â€œhousingâ€ is all about, and what our communities are for. Housing should be the platform for raising healthy children and nurturing familial and social relationships, not merely a financial investment.
â€œAt the intersection of Skokie and Dundee Roads in Northbrook, developers are proposing that this 14-acre site include 416 â€œluxuryâ€ rental units.Â As of this writing, the Village is not requiring that any of this housing be affordable.Â Similarly, Glenview, which has three developments totaling 666 units in the pipeline, and Wilmette, with 110 â€œluxuryâ€ rentals slated for Green Bay Road, are silent on affordable housing.â€
What you can do
- Be educated. Contact Open Communities for information on housing need and solutions.
- Tell your suburb that you support affordable and accessible housing â€“ preserving it or building it. It doesnâ€™t have to be more than a two-sentence e-mail.
- Vote your values. Vote for candidates who support affordable and fair housing.