Aurora housing task force forwards recommendations to mayor
Ten housing recommendations will be moving on to the desk of Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner after his task force on affordable housing debated — then approved — the recommendations Wednesday afternoon.
The recommendations stem from a $30,000 housing study the city commissioned last fall, when the Aurora Housing Authority's plans to rebuild affordable housing at Jericho Circle, a west side development slated for demolition, were causing controversy.
The study outlines housing concerns including continuing foreclosure issues, the high price of rental properties and a lack of capacity for ongoing attention to housing strategies. The 10 proposed recommendations were designed to address those concerns, and the task force agreed on almost all of them Wednesday.
But a recommendation that the city "adopt affordable housing criteria," drew debate.
It listed four sets of criteria already developed by different organizations as data the city should consider when approving its own standards. Some task force members said the various criteria — drawn from the city's five-year consolidated plan, the Aurora Housing Authority's five-year goals, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus' Housing Endorsement Criteria and the Kane County Continuum of Care's 10-year Plan — were contradictory.
The Metropolitan Mayors Caucus guidelines define what a suitable site for an affordable housing project must have, including proximity to major transit services, a job hub or a town center. Aurora's chief management officer, Carie Anne Ergo, said the caucus's criteria are widely accepted across the suburbs as best practices in affordable housing.
"I feel the Aurora Housing Authority criteria are not in line," with the Mayors Caucus criteria, task force member Scott Voris said.
Al Schuler, the housing authority's board chairman, said the caucus's guidelines might not mesh with his agency's plans, especially in terms of demolishing 100 units at Jericho Circle and redeveloping the site, which is not located near a public transit hub. He said housing authority board members couldn't support the recommendation to "adopt affordable housing criteria" and was one of seven votes against it.
The task force amended the recommendation to remove all three lists of previously developed criteria except the mayors caucus's. The final recommendation said only that the Aurora City Council should consider approving the caucus's criteria and then amending the city's five-year consolidated plan. The amended recommendation passed 13-7 with two task force members abstaining.
Nine other recommendations the task force approved without nearly as much debate include: adopting a proactive housing policy; establishing a permanent policy advisory group for housing; designating a lead city staff person for housing; compiling and maintaining a description of housing incentives, resources and priorities; structuring financial assistance for housing; expanding homeownership options; and exploring foreclosures and adaptive reuse as a resource for affordable housing.
All of the recommendations will be presented to the city council as a report, but it will be up to Weisner to choose the next steps in the process of addressing housing challenges in Aurora.
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