Why Arlington Heights panel backs fees instead of cheaper units for downtown row houses

  • The Sigwalt 16 project calls for 16 row houses on the southern quarter of vacant Block 425 at Sigwalt Street and Chestnut Avenue in downtown Arlington Heights.

    The Sigwalt 16 project calls for 16 row houses on the southern quarter of vacant Block 425 at Sigwalt Street and Chestnut Avenue in downtown Arlington Heights. Courtesy of Village of Arlington Heights

 
 
Updated 6/12/2019 5:55 AM

A month after calling for below-market-rate rental units within the Arlington 425 project, the Arlington Heights housing commission Tuesday recommended that a row house development proposed for the remainder of an empty downtown block be allowed to provide a fee in lieu of actual affordable units.

The difference, members of the panel said, is that Sigwalt 16 -- the residential development of 16 row houses along Sigwalt Street between Chestnut and Highland avenues -- is a "for sale" project priced between $600,000 and $800,000 per unit.

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"To make that affordable to me sounds like an enormous challenge," commission member Mark Hellner said . "Practically speaking, it seems to me there's a point at which the market price eliminates those units being affordable."

Developer Taylor Morrison estimated an affordable unit would be priced around $175,000.

The panel, which reviews the housing mix in proposed multifamily housing developments in town, voted 4-0 Tuesday night to recommend to the village board that the developer be required to provide a $120,000 fee to the village's housing trust fund.

The village's housing guidelines call for 10% of units to be affordable, though a $75,000-per-unit fee can be allowed instead. Within the 16-unit Sigwalt project, that would be 1.6 units.

After negotiations with the village staff, the developer agreed to provide $120,000, or $75,000 multiplied by 1.6, to be paid when the first building permit is issued.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The village's community development department staff supported the recommended fee, pointing to difficulties at the Timber Court condominiums, the only for-sale development that included affordable units. Approved in 2004, 14 of 72 units had to be affordable.

Nora Boyer, the village's housing planner, said there have been problems reselling the units due to fluctuation in values and the high number of rental units that resulted from the recession and decline in the suburban condominium market. Boyer also said there are fewer lenders now willing to stretch outside conventional lending practices.

She added that the village staff is working to tweak its affordable housing policy on for-sale units but doesn't want to hold up a development proposal in the meantime.

Last month, the housing commission recommended at least 18 apartments within the 361-unit Arlington 425 residential and commercial campus be priced at lower rates. The panel also expressed a preference for another nine units, though the village board ultimately agreed May 13 to allow developer Bruce Adreani of CCH LLC to provide just the 18 units along with a $225,000 fee.

Village trustees approved the project, which would put three buildings on the northern three-quarters of the so-called Block 425, the long-vacant parcel bounded by Campbell Street, Highland Avenue, Sigwalt Street and Chestnut Avenue.

Sigwalt 16, proposed for the remaining southern quarter of the block, would have three buildings with heights up to four stories and interior spaces as large as 3,400 square feet. The design commission gave the project a positive recommendation May 28. The plan commission is expected to review it June 26 before going to the village board.

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