Arlington Heights trustees on Monday expressed a willingness to put more teeth into their affordable housing guidelines by adopting an official ordinance, though trustees would be able to adjust the rules depending on circumstances of a particular development.
The informal guidelines that have been in place for new construction residential developments since 2006 would also be overhauled, under proposals developed by the village staff and reviewed by the village's advisory housing commission.
The village board conducted its first formal review of the proposed changes Monday night, when at least four trustees favored the idea of putting guidelines into an ordinance that would require developers to include below-market rate apartments in new construction developments.
Arlington Heights is among six communities out of 284 in the suburbs to have affordable housing programs; the other five towns have codified rules in ordinances.
What precisely the Arlington Heights ordinance would say still is to be determined. The village community development department staff and housing commission -- following two meetings of their own in August and September -- issued similar recommendations on some housing issues, but also more or less stringent proposed rules in other areas.
For instance, the staff proposed 7.5% of apartments for new downtown construction be deemed "affordable," which would be priced for those making at or below 60% of the area median income (about $37,440 for a single person).
The commission, however, recommended a 12.5% standard.
Now, it's at 15% for large-scale developments of more than 25 units. But village officials said that number was "unworkable" in negotiations with market-rate developers, many who ended up paying fees to a village housing trust fund instead.
The staff and the commission did agree with a 5% affordability standard for new construction apartments outside downtown, and 10% if the development gets public assistance.
The village staff and some trustees on Monday said the ordinance should strike a balance that would encourage some cheaper housing for residents without stifling private development in town.
"Developers will run away and they are running away if we make it too hard, too expensive and too difficult," said Trustee Jim Tinaglia, whose architecture firm designed three developments where below-market rate units or fees in lieu were required. "They will build in Mount Prospect. Mount Prospect wants what we have here. ... We have to figure out a good balance."
Tinaglia added that he favors an ordinance but that it would take "teamwork" between the village and developers during negotiations on affordable housing -- for instance, maybe allowing reduced permit fees or higher density in exchange for cheaper units.
Village officials plan to refine their recommendations before bringing them back to the board at a later date.