An Arlington Heights Housing Commission meeting intended to discuss affordable housing in the proposed Arlington 425 project turned contentious at times as some of the more than 60 attendees argued about the need and value of providing affordable housing in the village, while others worried affordable housing could lead to violent crime in the area.
“I am in support of it and I am supportive of a diverse community,” said Dawn Frenzel, 57, who said she has lived in Arlington Heights since 2001. “These types of units are really helpful to our senior citizens on fixed incomes. They built these communities, raised their children in these communities and can’t afford to be in the community they’ve been in 40 to 50 years.”
The proposed project would include a nine-story building with 182 apartments and up to 24,000 square feet of retail/office space at 225 W. Campbell St., a five-story parking garage with 13 stories above adding 125 more units at 44 S. Highland Ave., along with a third, four-story building with 54 units at 33 S. Chestnut St.
Village staff had recommended the project include 18 affordable housing units priced at 60 percent of the area median income in the village.
Although rents haven’t been finalized, Charles Perkins, village director of planning and community development, said staff projected the market rent of such an affordable unit to be $889/month for a studio and $952/month for a one bedroom using the 60 percent AMI calculation.
“I don’t want all this affordable housing in Arlington Heights,” longtime resident Susan Catlin said at the April 29 meeting. “When I moved here, everybody, we were all the same. We didn’t have the crime that’s going on now with people that can’t afford to live here moving here.”
Some attending the meeting, which lasted more than three hours, held up signs petitioning for 54 affordable housing units, which they say is in line with the village’s guidelines for such a development proposed for the center of downtown.
Commissioners attempted to negotiate with the developer and his attorney over the number of affordable units in the proposed $150 million development. However, they failed to come to a resolution.
Also, village staff also suggested the developer pay an additional $225,000 to a village affordable housing trust in lieu of providing nine additional units.
Commission members did not approve the staff recommendation and the developer rejected it.
“Sixty percent is not going to work,” developer Bruce Adreani, president of Norwood Builders said about the proposed 60 percent AMI rent calculation “They’ll laugh me out of the bank and I won’t be able to get financing. It can be a dog poop park.”
His attorney Michael Firsel, of the Bannockburn law firm Firsel Ross, had responded to the concerns of both residents and commission members throughout the night, suggesting the village instead consider his proposal of 18 units at 80 percent of the village’s area median income.
According to Perkins, at 80 percent AMI, rent for an affordable housing unit studio would be $1,185/month and $1,270/month for a one bedroom. Commission members were hesitant to respond, instead asking for projected cost/loss analysis on the affordable units.
Further, Firsel said the 54 affordable units suggested by residents was “unrealistic” and would cost the developer a cash flow loss of $464,000 annually.
“Eighteen units is better than no units,” Firsel said. “Eighteen units is better than no project.”
Most residents in attendance who stood to be heard were in favor of the project and wanted to see affordable housing made available to senior citizens and veterans in Arlington Heights, identified by the developer as the first to be considered.
Frenzel said she sees the affordable housing units also benefitting special needs adults who are high functioning and can live independently, just as her son, but cannot afford the otherwise high rents in the village.
Janet Niemeyer, 80, has lived in Arlington Heights for 64 years and recognized that affordable housing is a social issue, but also a community issue.
“All people deserve a house,” said Niemeyer. “To be good neighbors is in our DNA here.” She recommended an adjustment in the affordable housing provision that would make it “more possible for people to come and make a home here and contribute to this community.”
However, not everyone was in favor of providing these opportunities.
“I fear for my own safety. I don’t want all this affordable housing a half a block away from me,” Catlin said.
Some attendees applauded her comments while others cited the high number of affordable housing units in nearby Park View Apartments and the large number of police calls, often for violent crime, to that building.
Mark Hellner, acting chairman of the Housing Commission, questioned the validity of the police calls and expressed concern about the implication.
“Please don’t make a correlation between higher crime and lower income housing,” Hellner said. “Let’s be realistic, if there’s a lot of crime, the police department will deal with it.”
Hellner said there was no way he could assure residents there won’t be any crime in a building of that size, particularly since crime happens everywhere.
Firsel said that if any potential residents had criminal records, they would not be allowed a voucher for an affordable unit at Arlington 425.
The project, which has already been approved by the Design and Plan commissions, will be revisited by the Housing Commission after the developer provides additional financials on the impact of the affordable housing guidelines requested by the village.
The new village board is expected to vote on the project at a future meeting.
Elizabeth Owens-Schiele is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.