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Chicago Tribune: State, county leaders discuss affordable housing during tour of Arlington Heights

State, county leaders discuss affordable housing during tour of Arlington Heights, other developments

By Alexandra Kukulka

A group of Cook County and state officials met Thursday at a supportive housing development currently being built in Arlington Heights, as part of a discussion on affordable housing in the north and northwest suburbs.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Commissioner Scott Britton, D-14th District, and state Senator Ann Gillespie, D-Arlington Heights, spent about an hour touring Heart’s Place, the newly constructed apartment building at 120 E. Boeger Drive in Arlington Heights.

“This kind of housing is really critical to the stability of our communities. We’ve got to be able to provide housing for all the folks who live here,” Preckwinkle said.

The 18-unit apartment building will accept people with disabilities and those needing access to supportive services, said Kristin Berg, board president for the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation, one of the developers of the housing complex.

Construction of the apartment building is anticipated to be done at the end of August, Berg said. The developers hope the first residents move in shortly after.

There is a need for affordable housing in the northern suburbs, Berg said, because there is a large number of residents who work in restaurants, schools and stores in the area and don’t “make the kind of income to afford an ‘average’ rent or ‘average’ mortgage property in the northern or northwest suburbs."

“This diversity of housing, we believe, improves communities, so you have people from all walks of life,” Berg said. “People should be able to find a place to live where their families are, where their job is, where they want to be.”

The Housing Opportunity Development Corporation wants to continue building more affordable housing developments, which requires more resources.

“I know that’s on the minds of our elected officials, so I’m excited to get a chance to put that in front of them,” Berg said.

Preckwinkle said she’s always been supportive of affordable housing, going back to when she was an alderman of the 4th Ward on the South Side of Chicago. The county supported the Heart’s Place development, and supports affordable housing across the county for people with disabilities, families and for seniors, she said.

“I’m grateful that this development focuses on the disability community. I hope that our communities would be open to affordable housing more broadly for families as well,” Preckwinkle said.

The biggest challenge in establishing affordable housing across the north and northwest suburbs is “misinformation,” Britton said.

“It’s a complete misapprehension of what these things are designed to do, particularly for people with disabilities,” Britton said. “If we want to have people in our communities who work in our communities, they should be able to live in our communities.”

As a newly elected commissioner, Britton said he plans to work with the municipal boards in his district to educate them on affordable housing. He acknowledged that there is a “boogie man” complex around affordable housing, which further’s his mission to educated more people about it.

“The more I can get people out, the more I can get the word out to talk about affordable housing, I think the more it makes a difference for people who may otherwise have just reflexively been against it,” Britton said. “It’s an educational process more than anything else.”

Gillespie said she has started working with Britton and Preckwinkle to begin establishing an enforcement of affordable housing creation at the state level.

“Since I have taken office, one of the biggest issues that constituents come to me with is housing and security and needing support of various different kinds to stay in their communities,” Gillespie said. “It’s very important, and it’s something that we need to have the state be stronger on."

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