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Naperville agrees to lease — not sell — land for affordable housing for seniors, adults with special needs

Chicago Tribune - 9/22/2022

Advocates wearing red T-shirts printed with “I (heart) Affordable Housing” applauded the Naperville City Council Tuesday for agreeing to lease six acres of city-owned land on which a development for seniors and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities will be built.

For months Wisconsin-based Gorman and Co. had been negotiating with the city to purchase the site near Route 59 and 103rd Street, but could not come to an agreement.

Instead of buying the property, the two sides opted for a lease approach in which the city will receive an initial $570,000 payment and then $30,000 annually for the duration of the 99-year lease.

The deal allows the city to retain ownership of a prime piece of land, receive revenue over time and affirm its commitment to provide affordable housing on the site to meet the long-term needs of the community.

It is contingent on Gorman obtaining financing for the project, including acquiring $1.9 million in DuPage County HOME funds; city approval of a variance to change the requirement for 50% brick facade to 30%; and a property tax break similar to the COVID-19 Affordable Housing Grant Program Act.

Councilman Benny White, a former member of the Indian Prairie District 204 School Board, said families specifically moved to District 204 for the quality services it provided for children with special needs.

As a result, Naperville now has a larger population of young adults with IDD than the city anticipated, he said.

“So what are we going to do to help out those young adults? This is a Naperville challenge that we can solve, and we’re going to solve it,” White said.

Councilman Ian Holzhauer said speeches in support of the 103rd project were “some of the most inspiring and memorable moments” during his time on the council.

“(In meeting with families) what I really learned is how a parent’s love for their child comes out when they’re fighting for a place for them to live for the rest of their life,” he said.

One of the reasons the city is able to support a project like this, Mayor Steve Chirico said, is because of a robust and strong local economy, and he urged fellow council members to pursue that.

Donielle Deering, a parent of a young adult with IDD, said Tuesday’s vote was a “huge feeling of relief and excitement.” She’s ready to move on to what else needs to be done, she said.

“It’s a labor of love,” Deering said.

The quest to find housing for adult with IDD began before the pandemic when Deering and other parents met with members of the council to push the issue.

Tuesday’s vote will allow Gorman to pursue financing options to build 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.

If city and Gorman can’t obtain the tax relief Gorman requires, city staff would revert to negotiating terms for the potential sale of the property.

Approval by the council Tuesday allows Gorman to submit a preliminary project assessment to the Illinois Housing Development Authority by the October application deadline.

This step is required of all applicants seeking to submit a full application for low income housing tax credits to IHDA in February 2023, officials said.

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