How Geneva hopes to build more affordable housing in the city

Updated 6/12/2019 9:44 AM

Geneva officials say they want to step up efforts to get affordable housing built.

They say they will start by learning more about possible requirements or financial incentives for developers to include affordable housing in their plans, as St. Charles does.


In 2014, the city adopted the "Homes For a Changing Region" report that examined housing in St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia and North Aurora. That report showed only 5.2% of Geneva's housing qualified as affordable.

Illinois law requires cities that have less than 10% affordable housing to file a plan with the state outlining how they will address the issue. Geneva did so, identifying sites where such housing could be built, but it did not adopt any laws or set up any programs.

The topic came up again in November, during the annual strategic-planning workshop.

"I don't think that this council has established a clear policy," Alderman Michael Clements said Monday. "We seem to be having the same conversations over and over again."

Aldermen decided they are interested in incentives (such as reducing permit fees and land-cash donations); inclusionary zoning (requiring such units); demolition taxes; and property contributions. The topics will be discussed at as-yet-unscheduled committee meetings this summer, but no later than Aug. 26.

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The council got a bit of a scolding Monday from Maureen McKeough, a member of a 2015 city task force on affordable housing. The group identified about two-dozen areas where some could be built, but nine of those have instead been used for market-rate housing.

"Why wasn't somebody mentioning that there was a percentage that was supposed to be built as affordable housing?" she said. "Did nobody say 'Wait a minute, we promised, we said we were going to do this thing?'"

Mayor Kevin Burns said affordable-housing developers have approached the city. One wanted to build units for senior citizens, using state low-income housing tax credits, but the site was too far away from public transit and a grocery store for the state's liking, Burns said.

DeGroot said the price of land in Geneva, and its zoning laws that favor low-density housing, also are factors.

He said the city's affordable housing stock now totals 7.7%. That number is determined by how many units are available in Geneva for households earning either 60% (renters) or 80% (owners) of the Chicago-Naperville-Joliet median household income, if they only paid the recommended 30% of their pay for housing.


That housing cost includes rent or mortgage payments, utilities, property taxes and insurance.

So, a person living alone and earning $37,440 or less shouldn't be paying more than $1,002 a month for a one-bedroom apartment. But the market cost in Geneva is about $1,330, DeGroot said.

He also gave examples of Geneva-area government positions that fall at or below 60% of the median income: a library facilities manager, a park district preschool teacher, a paralegal for Kane County. At 80%, workers would include a library assistant, a police community service officer and a teacher with a bachelor's degree and eight years of experience.

"The right thing to do here is that we want housing that people who work in Geneva can afford to live in," said Chuck Miles, a member of the 2015 task force.

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