Meeting Minutes ~ May 10, 2023

Action Ridge General Meeting

Video of meeting available here:

May 10, 2023

Park Ridge Community Church and streamed via Zoom

Meeting commenced at 7:12pm

Nan Parson welcomed and introduced Aleksandra Kajderowicz (AK)

AK is a student at Maine South and has been serving as Action Ridge’s intern this semester. She completed a research project entitled “Restrictive Covenants of Park Ridge”

Full presentation available here:

  • Park Ridge restricted sale of homes to non-white people through written covenants in real estate transactions. These covenants were enforced by real estate professionals. AK found text that specifically forbade sales to people of “African blood”.
  • Racist covenants were a common practice throughout the country in the 1950s through the 1970s.
  • They are illegal today, but the resulting segregation is still evident.
  • In Park Ridge, there was much debate around open housing regulations.
  • Ultimately, open housing had more proponents (1968)

AK’s experience brought her to this project with a unique perspective. She attended Penoyer in Norridge and her parents came to the US as immigrants. She was surprised to find how much stability there is in Park Ridge – residents and businesses tend to stay. Generations of the same family come back to settle in the community. While Park Ridge is a very stable community, AK noted that there is a lack of racial diversity here.  She said that work needs to be done to “address the legacy of racist housing policies and ensure that all individuals have equal access to housing and the opportunities that come with it”.

Kristin Berg reminded the attendees that Park Ridge is working on an affordable housing plan to file with the state this year. She introduced the evening’s first guest speaker. Richard Koenig

is the executive director of Housing Opportunity Development Corporation (HODC), a nonprofit affordable housing developer.

HODC develops, preserves and manages housing that is available at below-market prices. Some of their properties specifically serve people requiring special services like seniors and people in recovery from substance use disorders. Currently, HODC has completed 31 affordable housing developments comprising 560 units.

Two organizations which ultimately became HODC were outgrowths of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 Fair Housing movement. The movement met a lot of resistance to its ideas of affordable housing and it was difficult to get developers to take action. In 1983, HODC decided to build on its own.

HODC specializes in complex financing structures to keep rents low. The organization focuses on communities in the North and Northwest suburbs. HODC develops senior, family, and supportive housing with an emphasis on allowing people who work in a community to also live in the community.

Affordable housing development is a long process. A fast project may take is 3-4 years; some projects have taken more than 20 years to see to fruition.

There is always more demand for units than supply, so HODC uses a lottery system to select tenants.

Communities can take steps to advance affordable housing initiatives.

  • Create committee for affordable housing within the city structure; build it into operating procedures.
  • Advocate for an inclusionary zoning ordinance, which would require a percentage of new development to be affordable.
  • Advocate for the city to establish a trust fund funded by taxes for affordable housing projects. The State of Illinois has one.
  • Look at City-owned land/property that could be repurposed for affordable housing.
  • Create a fund for first-time homebuyer assistance.  It is much harder to do projects where the tenant becomes the homeowner; 90% of HODC’s developments are for rental housing.

It costs as much, if not more, to build affordable housing units. HODC must manage them in order to keep living costs low.

Kristin introduced the second guest speaker, Heather Ross. Heather is an attorney specializing in legal issues surrounding reproductive technology. She has been a Village Trustee in the Village of Northbrook since 2019.

Heather shared her story of becoming a Village Trustee who is an advocate for affordable housing. She had not initially intended to run for elected office. She belonged to a community group advocating for social justice but their efforts were not yielding results. Ultimately, the group decided that they needed representation on the Board.

After Heather won the seat, she found that the mayor was supportive of affordable housing, but didn’t think she had support. The mayor asked the trustees to rank the issues that were most important and, as a group, affordable housing turned out to be the top priority.

They started with public forums to help educate residents about affordable housing and receive feedback. It was helpful to have Highland Park’s plan as an illustration, which showed that a community can retain its character.

Aspects of Northbrook’s plan:

  • In larger developments, 15% of units must be affordable.
  • Units must be dispersed throughout building, not all in one area.
  • Plan has no preferences for tenants (doesn’t advantage people from Northbrook).
  • There are Incentives for developers (opportunity to increase density, for example).
  • Board must review all marketing materials for rental solicitations.

There was community pushback, but the education forums were important and dispelled rumors. Developers have remained very interested in doing projects in Northbrook.

After the presentations, the audience engaged in a lively discussion, asking questions about how both presenters were able to convince communities to work toward increasing affordable housing.  The conclusion was that advocates must persevere, finding creative ways to tirelessly push for policy change.  Northbrook’s success is an example that persistence pays off. Richard Koenig and Heather Ross offered to help Action Ridge in the continuing efforts to create change so that the racist legacy of the past no longer so strongly affects the present and future.

Meeting notes submitted by Alissa Goldwasser and Nan Parson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: