Meeting Minutes & Recording ~ 6.10.21

Link to Recording:

General Announcements

Catherine Inserra shared her Peace Crane project. People can pick up kits with materials and instructions to make cranes at the Park Ridge Public Library. Promotes literacy and peace – “Peace Takes Flight” is the theme. The finished cranes will be an art installation in the children’s department of the library later this year.

Joan Lavelle and Noreen Gayford discussed the status of the BIO bill. The bill passed the Illinois House but fingerprinting caused movement to stall in the Senate. A meeting next Wednesday hopes to restart progress through the Senate with additional measures that address loopholes in previous legislation.

Nan Parson mentioned the work of the WIP group to rethink the structure of Action Ridge.

Kristin Berg talked about work toward promotion of affordable housing in Park Ridge. The next Affordable Housing committee meeting is June 23.

The Illinois Affordable Housing omnibus bill passed the legislature. It includes tax incentives for developers who set aside 20% of a project for affordable units, a tax break for low-income housing properties, and — important for Park Ridge —  an amendment to the affordable housing planning and appeals act that specifies that every municipality that is not exempt will have to file plans, including Park Ridge. There can be no more “home rule” claim for not filing a plan.

Kristin and Nan met with Jim Gilmore to discuss how work on the comprehensive plan can happen with more transparency.

The next general meeting is July 8 at 7pm. The next discussion group is on July 28 at 7pm. The book is Rising Out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist by Eli Saslow.

Karen Banks-Lubicz is working with the library to show The Long Shadow. It will be shown in September via streaming and the library and Action Ridge will host a  Q&A with director Frances Causey on September 16.

Pat Lofthouse drafted a letter to Chief Kaminski with suggestions about how the police focus on teen patrols could involve restorative justice. The current approach of involving citizen patrols to watch teen activity is worsening the relationship between teens and police and affecting teens who aren’t violating laws.

Fair Vote Illinois is still soliciting support for ranked-choice voting.  An informational link will be sent out.

Guest Speaker on Affordable Housing, Sue Loellbach

Sue appreciates the work of Action Ridge and underscored the importance of the work of social action groups in their respective communities to liaison with issue-based organizations that work statewide.

Sue works for Connections for the Homeless.  It’s located in Evanston but provides direct services to 41 municipalities. In/near Park Ridge, Northwest Compass and Journeys to Homes provide similar services.

The organization has four main pillars of Connections for the Homeless:

  • Shelter service (60-bed facility)
  • Housing programs
  • Eviction prevention
  • Advocacy (Joining Forces for Affordable Housing) – Taking a systematic approach to this issue

What is Affordable Housing?

Government definition: Housing that costs no more than 30% of income

Advocates definition: Housing that leaves you enough money to meet your basic needs

In north suburban Cook County public housing stock is pretty good and residents of public housing are generally paying no more than 30% of their gross income. However, there is typically not enough left over for basic needs among very low income households.

Those who don’t live in public housing but are in need of housing they can afford are not doing do well.  Mapping incomes to housing stock for Park Ridge shows that a renter would have to make $40-50K to afford a one-bedroom dwelling. If a renter makes any less, there aren’t enough options to live in the community.

Nearly 30% of households (approx. 4,000) in Park Ridge pay more than 30% of their income on housing. Not surprisingly, it is a bigger issue for lower-income households.

Housing is an equity issue – racial, socio-economic, disability, elderly, families are in need of housing that is affordable..

Affordable housing is the foundation for people to build well-being.

There are many different ways to address a lack of affordable housing, but the right tools must be used for individual communities. Some approaches address increasing resident income; others address decreasing housing cost/resident expense.

Barriers to progress

  • Organic change is going in the wrong way — housing will continue to get more expensive
  • Need a combination of the the right approaches for each individual community
  • Solutions need to be regional and local
  • Lack of political will (largest issue)

The pandemic highlighted the lack of political will to address homelessness.

During the pandemic, municipalities sheltered people in hotels, provided food, did laundry, etc.  But, of course, this was temporary.

Affordable housing is harder to understand than homeless shelters; there is an art to making it digestible.

It is a problem that both affordable housing stock and lower income residents are located in unincorporated areas. This might be something for Action Ridge to look at.

Jim Brown, former Community Preservation and Development Director of Park Ridge, addressed the group about his termination. Affordable housing is a hot potato issue. He said that he was fired solely due to his support for more affordable housing in Park Ridge and because of his criticism of procedures around the comprehensive plan.

He stated that Park Ridge has “exclusionary”, rather than inclusionary zoning. Contrary to recent news reports, he said that affordable housing developers have contacted the city with interest. However, zoning is much too restrictive to make it possible for those developers to be considered. Affordable housing developments are vigorously opposed by people in power here.

Jim believes that he made two mistakes — he underestimated the intense opposition to affordable housing and overestimated his ability to assuage fears. The “watered down” plan for affordable housing focused on accessory units and conversion of a small number of single family homes to two-flats. He stated that he lost his job over these issues.

Sue Loellbach said that change has to come from outside of government; residents may need to vote out leaders before change happens

The advocacy tool kit her organization provides can help Action Ridge navigate which types of discussions are even possible.

Catherine Inserra recalled that there was opposition to PADS in Park Ridge several years ago. It is interesting that efforts like Sunday Suppers have become embraced by the community but pushback on shelter is so intense.

While there are significant obstacles to an affordable housing agenda, there have also been meaningful advances: imminent signing of Illinois omnibus law, greater awareness in Park Ridge city council, and recent media coverage are three of those.

Meeting ended at 8:40pm  Submitted by Alissa Goldwasser

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