Northbrook trustees remained largely supportive of expanding affordable housing in town during discussions around new requirements for affordable housing in senior living facilities.
On Sept. 14, the Northbrook Village Board instructed staff to move forward on an amendment that would push Northbrook’s affordable housing plan, which mandates 15% of newly constructed units be affordable, to include independent senior living facilities.
In December 2020, the village overhauled its existing housing plan in a bid to expand affordable housing in Northbrook and make the village more diverse and accessible to young people and seniors. The goal is for 10% of Northbrook homes to be affordable; at the time of the plan’s passage, only 5.7% of housing stock was considered affordable.
However, independent senior living facilities were excluded from this requirement, alongside assisted living and nursing facilities. According to a memo by city staff, the exclusion of senior living was due to an existing requirement in the village zoning code that already mandated 10% of independent senior living facilities in one village zoning district be affordable.
That zoning district only compromises a small portion of multiple family and mixed-use space in Northbrook, based on a zoning map dated to 2019 and made available on the village website.
Trustee Robert Israel voiced opposition to the amendment to expand the requirement to 15% of senior living units, arguing support for affordable housing was waning in the suburbs and the village plan, which addresses new development, had not yet faced public opinion.
“I’m seeing a number of communities now backing down on current affordable housing requirements in order to attract folks,” Israel said. “We haven’t really had any of those tests as of yet.”
But Trustee Heather Ross argued village residents remained behind the affordable housing plan.
“When people came out for public comment (in 2020), even the people who were not convinced with respect to how expansive our affordable housing plan was supported felt there should be affordable housing for seniors,” Ross said.
Each of the remaining board members chimed in in support of Ross’s position, and all but Israel voted for staff to proceed with the amendment. Village officials will return to the board with the drafted amendment at a later date, at which point the amendment will proceed to a final vote by the village board.
The affordable housing plan resembles that of nearby Highland Park and requires units be dispersed throughout the city instead of being clustered in one area. Northbrook first adopted an affordable housing plan in 2005, after Illinois mandated municipalities develop a plan to make at least 10% of local housing affordable, but struggled to follow through on the state’s demands due to a lack of guidance.
Joshua Irvine is a freelance reporter.