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Deal to sell Naperville land for affordable housing snagged by negotiations over price, city-required expenses
Chicago Tribune - 9/9/2022
Alex Kotas grew up in Naperville and attended Indian Prairie District 204 schools from first grade through age 21.
At a this week’s Naperville City Council meeting, Kostas and more than a dozen adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and their families appealed to the city to move ahead with a project that would provide affordable housing for them.
“While Naperville offers many great opportunities for people with disabilities, there is a lack of housing for those of us who wish to have some independence but who also require extra help in our day-to-day lives,” Kotas said.
He wants a place of his own in the community where he has family and friends, he said.
“Living with my parents forever is definitely not my goal, and my parents are getting any younger,” Kotas said at the Tuesday meeting.
Naperville has been finalizing terms with Wisconsin-based Gorman and Co. to purchase and develop six acres of city-owned property at 103rd Street and Route 59 for an affordable housing complex that would serve IDD residents and seniors. Approval of the deal has been on the council agenda since mid-July 19 but tabled at each of the last four meetings while negotiations remain ongoing.
Ron Clewer, Gorman’s Illinois market president, said his company has been working with city staff on the price of land. “We want to be a good partner with the city of Naperville,” he said.
Under consideration is a development in which 25% of the affordable housing units would be open to adults with IDD and 75% for seniors 62 and older.
The IDD portion of the building would be overseen by the Ray Graham Association, which offers community-based homes with residential services for individuals with disabilities.
In order to make the housing affordable, the cost of the land, improvements and fees cannot be more than 6% of the total project, unless funding assistance or concessions are provided, Clewer said.
In determining what the company can offer for the land, the company must consider more than $700,000 in added expenses that are part of the calculation, including park and school impact fees, the price of extending the walking path and the cost of bringing utilities to the site, he said.
In addition, Gorman also would have to reimburse the Wheatland Township for the connection fees needed for the water and sewer lines, he said.
The way to ensure the housing remains affordable is by a municipality underwriting the costs of construction, Clewer said. In many communities with which Gorman has worked, the city uses Community Development Block grants or secures funds through the HOME Investment Partnerships Program from the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development, he said. Another option is to tap federal dollars provided by the American Rescue Plan Act.
Naperville also could provide breaks on development costs, such as waiving the city’s 50% masonry facade requirements.
Clewer said the city still can recoup costs by selling the portion of the property that fronts Route 59 for market value for a retail or restaurant development, which will provide sales and property tax revenue and create jobs.
“It also benefits us as a housing provider because (that could provide) jobs for our residents, particularly our residents with IDD,” Clewer said.
Young adults with IDD and their parents told the council Tuesday that they want to see the project move ahead because once the terms are approved, Gorman can start preparing final site designs and pursuing funding for the project.
The plans also still must go through the planning and zoning process.
Standing beside her 21-year-old son, Connor, Pam Cahill, of Naperville, said the city’s affordable housing project became more relevant in January when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“We’ve always known we did not want to burden our children with taking care of Connor once my husband and I were no longer able,” Cahill said. “We realize now more than ever our young adults need to be in a forever home.”
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