While other cities adopt one or two measures to promote the production of affordable housing, this city has embraced a comprehensive approach that includes a demolition tax, a trust fund, a land trust, and an inclusionary zoning ordinance.
Highland Park’s affordable housing initiatives were recently recognized by the American Planning Association.
The city’s efforts come at a time when the local median sales price for a new single-family home tops $1 million. Meanwhile, the supply of rental housing has declined due to condominium conversions.
One of the steps taken by Highland Park was to adopt an affordable housing demolition tax on all residential demolitions in Highland Park. The tax is $10,000 for single-family homes. For multi-unit buildings, the tax is either $10,000 or $3,000 per unit, whichever is greater.
The tax helps fund the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which was established to help provide funds to preserve and create affordably priced housing in the city. The trust fund provides gap financing essential to developing affordable housing.
The city has also established the Highland Park Illinois Community Land Trust, a private, nonprofit organization that obtains land for the purpose of providing affordable housing. Its first project, a six-unit townhome development, was completed in 2004.
Another element of Highland Park’s initiative is an inclusionary zoning ordinance that calls on developers of projects with five or more units to provide 20 percent of the total units for sale or rent at an affordable price to income-qualified households. Developers receive a density bonus to help offset costs. Three projects were expected to begin construction in early 2006 that will include 11 units of affordable housing under the ordinance. Other developments were in the planning stages.
All of the measures have been adopted in the last few years. The comprehensive approach makes the initiative potentially more powerful, said Lee Smith, senior planner for the city.
Highland Park, a city of about 32,000 residents, plans to do even more. Officials are exploring the possibility of developing an employer-assisted housing program.