DuPage County Board looking for ways to grow affordable housing stock

DuPage County Board members will be taking a closer look at issues surrounding affordable housing.

The creation of an ad hoc affordable housing committee was announced during Tuesday's county board meeting and comes two weeks after the county board set aside $2.5 million to start an affordable housing solutions program.

"If you work in DuPage County, you should be able to live in DuPage County," said Deborah Conroy, county board chairwoman, after announcing the committee.

Conroy named county board members Liz Chaplin, a Downers Grove Democrat, and Sam Tornatore, a Roselle Republican, to head the committee. Tornatore heads the county board's development committee, and Chaplin heads the county board's finance committee.

Affordable housing generally is defined as housing that costs no more than 30% of the homeowner's or renter's monthly income. According to the U.S. Census, the median home price from 2017 to 2021 was $324,900, and the median monthly rent cost $1,433 for the same time period.

For first-time or first-generation homebuyers, essential workers, senior citizens wishing to downsize but remain in their community, and young adults who grew up in DuPage County, finding housing that takes up only 30% of their monthly income can be difficult, officials said.

"The need is so great," Chaplin said, adding that houses on the market in her area are all priced more than $300,000.

The cost of land, officials said, often hinders affordable housing developments.

"The cost of land is so expensive," Tornatore said. "That's where we can come into it ... by identifying properties that are more affordable."

From 2018 to 2022, some 862 affordable rental units were built in DuPage County, Illinois Housing Development Authority Executive Director Kristin Faust told board members Tuesday. During that same time, 996 homebuyers purchased a home with a mortgage assisted by the housing authority, Faust said.

Faust also told board members that developers of affordable housing often need a variety of public and private funding partners to finance developments.

Conroy said the $2.5 million set aside by the county to address housing needs is just a start, but she hopes it sends a signal to developers that the county is serious about addressing affordable housing needs.

"Affordable housing is an issue of paramount interest that impacts many of our residents," Conroy said.

Liz Chaplin
Sam Tornatore
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