Winnetka officially abandons expanded affordable housing plan
Updated: January 9, 2012 9:09AM
The Winnetka Village Council Tuesday adopted a resolution not to expand its affordable housing plan by a 4-3 vote.
The resolution, which Village President Jessica Tucker, and Trustees William Johnson, Jennifer Spinney and E. Gene Greable supported, states that given the current economic conditions, the cost of land and the lack of meaningful development opportunities, it’s the Village Council’s opinion that the affordable housing plan adopted in 2005 not be amended further at this time.
The Council rejected a resolution Trustee Richard Kates had drafted that read the “village shall not expand” the 2005 plan by specific measures, such as affordability standards, local preference standards and inclusionary zoning ordinances.
Tucker said she could not support Kates’ resolution because the “intent and wording is to close off forever discussion on this topic and a host of other topics.” That would be “binding the council and attempting to bind future councils, and you don’t know what the trends are going to be,” Tucker said.
About 50 people attended the Dec. 6 meeting, overflowing into the hall of the police station.
Many citizens, still widely divided, took the opportunity to weigh in on the topic. Some residents do not even agree on whether the village has thoroughly discussed affordable housing yet.
Members of the village Plan Commission specifically protested that the council members never discussed the revised and reduced affordable housing measures the commission hammered out in September.
Plan Commissioner Joni Johnson said, “This Village Council has not spent one minute on the refined recommendations that say . . . we don’t want a community land trust or housing trust fund . . .”
After a member of the community development department reviewed the commission’s revised plan for the Council on Nov 15, “you sat there silently, you asked no questions,” Johnson told the council, which she considers a “dereliction” of their responsibilities.
Resident Rian Wren disagreed. “The issue of affordable housing has been discussed significantly.” Wren said he heard people talking about it at various events through the summer and the way they expressed their opinions was through the caucus survey. Two-thirds of the people who responded said the village should not expand its affordable housing plan.
“You cannot control the price of houses in Winnetka, you cannot control the price of food at the Grand or Dominicks,” Wren said. The term affordable housing is a “misnomer, he said. “It is subsidized housing, if you are for that, fine. But somebody is going to have to pay for that.”
Several trustees also defended the effort they have put towards resolving the affordable housing question.
“Everybody up here is working really hard,” Spinney said. “We are not wasting your time, we are not wasting your dollars.”
Rintz voted against the resolution because he thinks it’s wrong to stop the debate.
“It’s too uncomfortable to have heated debates about complicated issues, so let’s just stop it. Let’s stick our head in the sand and hope it goes away.”
Rintz favors expanding affordable housing measures, because “it’s about saving the Winnetka we all knew when we raised our families here.”