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updated: 7/16/2013 5:54 AM

Arlington Heights approves affordable housing fund

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Arlington Heights officials on Monday approved an affordable housing trust fund that will draw funding from several sources, including money from possible slots at Arlington Park, although the state has not yet passed a gambling expansion.

The trust fund, approved unanimously by the village board, will provide money through grants or loans to entice developers and nonprofits to build more affordable units in Arlington Heights, something officials said has been needed for many years.

According to the approved language, the fund will receive 1 percent of all gambling revenue received annually by the village after the first full fiscal year the village receives any gambling revenue, as well as 10 percent of any gambling revenue from slot machines received by the village in the first full fiscal year that any gambling revenue from slot machines is received by the village.

The provision is to allow for in the instance that slot machines are never approved for the track, but the village does reverse course and allow video gambling -- some of the income from those video gambling machines would go to the trust fund.

As of now the village has no plans to approve video gambling and officials said they are still hopeful that the legislature and governor will agree on a gambling bill soon. At the end of the last legislative session Gov. Pat Quinn said he would not even consider a gambling bill until the state's pension issues are resolved.

"We believe gambling money will come and that we can use the money to make a difference. Now is the time to make that commitment," Housing Commissioner Siobhan White said at an earlier meeting on the topic.

There was some discussion about using money from a surplus in fiscal year 2013 to get the fund started, but the majority of the board voted against that earlier this month.

Trustees Carol Blackwood and Robin LaBedz, who both supported that idea, said they have heard from residents who were unhappy that the board did not decide to use some of the surplus money for the housing fund as a show of commitment to the cause.

Village President Tom Hayes on Monday said he is not against one day using general fund money to help the trust fund, but that this wasn't the right time.

Former Trustee Dwight Walton thanked the board for progress on an issue that he said has long been a problem in the village, including in the 1970s when a commission was first formed to study affordable housing.

"The need continues. It will never end," Walton said. "I would hope that the board will continue to investigate and find new means of funding."

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