Will County Ad-Hoc Modern Housing Solutions Committee met Sept. 5.
Here is the minutes provided by the committee:
I. CALL TO ORDER / ROLL CALL
Chair Amanda Koch called the meeting to order at 12:01 PM
|Rachel Ventura||Vice Chair||Present|
|Herbert Brooks Jr.||Member||Present|
Also Present: Ms. Winfrey, Ms. Dunn
II. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE TO THE FLAG
Mr. Brooks led the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
III. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
1. WC Ad-Hoc Modern Housing Solutions Committee - Regular Meeting - Aug 1,
2019 11:00 AM
RESULT: APPROVED [UNANIMOUS]
MOVER: Tom Weigel, Member
SECONDER: Herbert Brooks Jr., Member
AYES: Koch, Ventura, Berkowicz, Brooks Jr., Traynere, Weigel
IV. OLD BUSINESS
V. NEW BUSINESS
1. Disc Re: Summary of Affordable Housing and Related Initiatives
Mr. Pullman said we are thrilled from the last meeting because we had heard John’s presentation before. We are very familiar with those statics and I think the interesting thing is it is an all-encompassing problem which effects economic development and effects the quality of life. Housing is an issue that we are finally coming to terms with in terms of a county. I think one of the aspects of what we do is looking at affordable housing; but we realize that it is a market driven phenomenon and also part of the housing market that we deal with is not necessary market driven. Developers are having a hard time planning the subsidized funding streams to create affordable housing. John had referred to this group to this informal group that we have assembled since early spring of this year. Gidden Boosting, John Greuling, Kendal Jackson are all part of that group and we have some non for profit representation. We are an informal group but we have a mission and we are searching for an answer. What we eventually are focusing on is to address housing in terms of a policy at a countywide basis. This is a unique situation because we don’t have a housing policy per say. One of the reasons it is difficult to discuss is because we have no jurisdiction as a County within Municipal boundaries. Are jurisdiction is unincorporated Will County. That becomes a problem in how to effect policy, but I think it is more of a philosophical approach that we are looking for or maybe a persuasive approach. One of the things that is striking to me in Mr. Greuling’s presentation was 16% of our housing stock is available for rental or multifamily. There is only one other regional County in this area that has a lower percentage and that is at 13%. I think that this is one of the critical issues; our home ownership percentage is sky high, state wide, nationwide, certainly in the region. That is something that Mr. Moustis referred to; one of the impediments in that is of course zoning. The issues of density, the issue of zoning, zoning policy not only at the County level but also within the Municipalities surrounding part of our population. I think what we as Land Use Community Development Division are trying to encourage the discussion to take place through this and other committees as well. To lean toward the willingness and the desire to have a countywide housing policy. We don’t know what that looks like and we don’t know what the components are; but we are certainly are working from our standpoint on some of the elements that would go into a housing policy. Unfortunately we were going to have a presentation today that we had to cancel at the last minute. We have an opportunity to tap into some technical assistance. I will briefly talk about that and then Ms. Sojka can add to it; this is a grant opportunity that has been going for a number of years. Typically counties do not compete for this money or are not even eligible for this assistance; because we have so many interesting things going on in our county this committee is one of them. The though group that is going on, Ms. Sojka encountered some of the people at CMAP and MPC and started a dialog with them. Suddenly they are interested in perhaps in opening up their opportunities for us. The name of the study Technical Assistance I think speaks for itself. Homes for a Changing Region; this is Will County, this is very appropriate. We are not sure what we are going to get when we embark on this, strategy, this technical assistance but I think all of the issues and challenges that were brought up today in the CED presentation are part of what we are going to dig in a little deeper with this technical assistance. We are looking for support for us to have the County Executive authorize to apply for the funding first of all. Secondly we’re trying to get as much County Board support and enthusiasm on the topic so that when we present this opportunity to CMAP and MPC they will see that this is a broad based universal request from the County of Will. There is another issue that I would like Ms. Sojka to speak about which is the technical assistance.
Ms. Sojka stated first and foremost CMAP was not able to be here today and we hope to reschedule that for November in regards to the Technical Assistant Grant. We had invited the members of the Housing Development Thought Leadership Group; which also Midland State Bank is around the table for that as well. We would like them to meet you and you meet them and CMAP; we hope to be able to have that happen either in October or November. They will provide a housing needs assessment for Will County and then come up with a housing action plan. We do have a need for a policy for the county even though we don’t have jurisdiction in municipalities we can at least provide some direction for how we think housing should go, in order to be competitive as a county in the region. At the heart of it we do actually have development in Will County in our jurisdiction; so we need to be able to provide the direction in leadership for how that is to go. Currently our zoning amendments have been really piecemeal it comes from maybe someone wanting to do something and then it goes through Land Use and we come up with a zoning amendment. Last year we approved accessory dwelling units; which is great but there could have been some improvement to how that zoning amendment text ended up. If we had some direction on that from the housing side that would have been beneficial. From my understanding we are considering cargo containers as housing. If we had some direction in what that would look like; because there is some traction in getting that approved. The flipside is we don’t allow HUD manufactured housing anywhere in the county. That’s approved cargo containers but not approved HUD manufactured housing, it’s an issue. We need that comprehensive approach to housing when it comes the County. I am looking forward to being able to get that technical assistance. If we don’t the HTLG is still going to pursue other options.
Ms. Ventura asked if you had written down or bullet pointed some of these ideas so that we can start going through them. Or present something in writing so this board can look at. Like the policy ideas like the HUD information; I had no idea that it existed. I think we are all willing to talk about it, we just don’t know it’s a problem.
Ms. Dunn added along with Ms. Ventura’s thought I think one of the questions is that Mr. Pullman said you need the permission of the Executive to apply for that grant to get the technical assistance. Is that a grant that Ms. Sojka would help to prepare?
Ms. Sojka said I don’t know if there is a full formal process to apply it seems like it is more of a dialog. If we can make mat between them there might be an agreement that we sign, but not necessarily a formal application.
Ms. Dunn asked what the timing on that is.
Mr. Pullman said there is no timing that is the beauty of it, it is an ongoing availability of it.
At this juncture a discussion was had on the different types of housing, giving different examples of manufactured homes, trailers and accessary dwelling units.
Mrs. Tatroe said in the scope of looking at the manufactured homes you may also want to work with banks. It can be very difficult to get financing for the manufactured housing. It has to have HUD plates and some banks will not loan for those homes, it is a big issue.
Ms. Koch said it sounds like there is an appetite at least from this committee to start what we might call a wish list of some of these things that you had identified in our housing and zoning that we could look at changing. Then we could discuss at a committee here if something looks like it is legally posable where we could look at moving it to Land Use somewhere down the line.
Mr. Weigel asked what that community in Frankfort on Rt. 45 is.
Ms. Tatroe said they are modular homes; modular makes the building requirements of the local entity so you will have two by fours, two by eights, so it meets those standards. A manufactured home is more like a mobile home and it is HUD that actually certifies that they were manufactured to HUD specs, but they do not meet the typical building requirements of the local entity. It is a manufactured home, you will see thinner walls typically, and it’s a different style of building.
Ms. Ventura stated I want to make a comment about what Ms. Koch said I totally agree about the wish list but I want to add make sure that if there are things that could be adapted that we add that to the wish list too. To point to Ms. Tatroe and Ms. Traynere the one thing I would caution especially since this is possibly for lower income families; it that we are forward thinking in what is happening in our society. Thinner walls, we have polar vortexes how does that effect energy bills; keeping it hot, keeping it cold, our future building standards need to be something to take in effect the climate change.
Ms. Sojka said the point is if we are going to consider cargo containers then why not consider manufactured housing that is already approved certified homes. The intent was for the housing assessment with CMAP is to start having those conversations; what makes sense for Will County because some things might not. If that technical assistance doesn’t come to fruition that I think that the HTLG did want to tackle that; so that we would be able to come up with some wish list and bring it back to the committee.
Ms. Koch said it sounds like you already have this list going so we can bring it every month and attach it and look at one item at a time as needed. Maybe at some point we can get a developer in who is interested in one of those items. When CMAP comes in and gives us our full overlay of everything we have seen; we can say these are things we already things we have identified and these are our largest interests; they might even shift focus for us. Today you are also going to talk a little bit about homelessness which is not what this committee is about. I do think that us providing more attainable housing at a higher level that homeless; maybe more home insecure folks would actually life up our homeless population, so this is something we are concerned about.
Mr. Pullman replied basically its folds into the housing policy that the County would be targeting. What it boils down to is the arability of inventory in housing stock. Right now there is a vast gap in affordable housing inventory. That is why a lot of the options focus around the City of Joliet. When you leave the City of Joliet the options diminish greatly. My philosophy is to get buy in from the County or Community leadership; they then have a vested interest in that study; they contribute to it they have an understanding of what the components are. The County receives from the Federal Government close to $4.3 million a year; specifically to keep hard to house individuals in housing. It is a phenomena that has been going on since the late 90’s; that dollar figure first started out as $2 million and we receive close to $4.3 million now. We have to have an organization that makes decisions on what agencies get this funding. They are agencies like Catholic Charities, Trinity Services, and Cornerstone Services. That agency is called the Continuum of Care. Mr. Marcum and I sit on one of the committees; in order to continue to attract and be eligible for that funding the Federal Government is insisting that we have a strategic plan, typically a 3 year plan. Most communities that have a very active response system to the needs of the homeless. Those strategic plans start from the top and work down into the agencies. That’s what our goal is here to get the County and the City of Joliet to buy into this study from the get go. The interesting thing is that we already have the City of Joliet participating, they made a commitment of $20,000. We also talked a couple months ago at this committee about the connection between the quality of health care and homelessness; there’s a direct correlation between what is happening in the health care industry and the homeless at risk population. Amita Health Care system in Joliet has given us some demonstration of the impact with the homeless community on their emergency facility. It is astounding on how much money they spend each year on people who don’t have a house to live in.
Ms. Traynere asked if you have asked Bolingbrook.
Mr. Pullman replied that’s a good point, no I have not. Ms. Traynere said you might want to, that is also Amita.
Mr. Pullman stated we are slowly accumulating funding resources to do this strategic plan; that is why we are coming to this committee initially to support that request and take that to the executive committee, to match the City of Joliet’s funding. We expect that the cost of the study from an outside consultant would be in the neighborhood of $60,000 to $75,000; we are trying to get as much as we can to get the buy in at the County and the City level. Also some other interested parties such as Amita, who already have pledged some support.
Ms. Koch asked from whom is this study coming from.
Mr. Pullman said haven’t done the request for proposals yet, but we have some targeted organizations that done these studies. Other communities that were excited to participate with; once we get the funding established then we do an RFP and go out and do it. We are talking about later this fall to releasing this RFP.
Ms. Traynere stated I don’t know what homelessness is like in other areas; I do know it is a big problem in Bolingbrook. I just found out from one of our staff members that we have people that live under the bridge at I-55 and Veterans.
Ms. Koch asked if this strategic plan be for the entire county.
Mr. Pullman replied it would include the entire county; the portion that would be applicable to this committee would be the availability of the affordable housing units. As this progress I think we can get a little bit more into the weeds on what this is going to look like. It is going to impact zoning and density, it impacts a lot of things, we will be glad to share with you in the upcoming months.
Ms. Ventura said I also know that the Continuum Care covers Grundy and Kendell Counties. Would this study also include these areas as well? Are you going to ask those counties to put money into it as well? Also, to Ms. Traynere’s point I know you look at some of the numbers that look at transitional housing where maybe someone is staying with another family member, and a lot of that comes through the schools.
Mr. Pullman replied the Regional Office of Education out of Will County is highly represented on the continuum. Ron O’Connor is a reprehensive who works very closely with the schools. There is a whole network of agencies and representatives from the schools that participate in this CoC. It is very impactful to our community; we are trying to gather up support from the County Board and of course approach these other orginizations, and other Counties.
Ms. Koch said my question is then do we need to vote of this here or does that get voted on in Executive Committee; or does this committee make a recommendation to fund that study.
Ms. Winfrey stated that you would make a recommendation and it would go to Executive Committee.
Mr. Pullman said some of the things that we have in the works related to fair housing issues are different aspects of it. There is a fair housing law that the county has to adhere to. Anybody that receives HUD money has to adhere to these fair housing policies. Last fall the County Board approved us going up for a housing study. That is being wrapped up right now; we’ve partnered with the Will County Real Estate Association, we hired a consultant to do the study. Ms. Sojka can give us an update on what is happening there. The issue here is it’s a broad spectrum of things that effect affordable housing and this is just one of them that we have been addressing over the last six months.
Ms. Sojka stated this particular study is a fair housing study so it is not housing stock it is looking at housing discrimination in Will County. It is a requirement to do it because we do get HUD funding; typically we do them every 5 years. HUD suggested that we start looking at things a little broader not just in our own jurisdiction and more regionally. This particular study we are partnering with the City of Joliet and the Housing Authority of Joliet, who also have to do these types of studies. We expect to get the first draft of the study this week; we can share that if it is of interest to this committee. There will be a public comment period for this study and we hope to have it wrapped up by the end of the year. We had a grant from the National Association of Realtors that allowed us to get more robust public outreach. We were able to go to committee meetings; we had online surveys and hired a social media person to establish our website, which is We Will Build Equal Opportunity Housing and Communities. It is not equal housing it is equal opportunities, we are focusing on that the opportunities and the options exist in the county. We are looking forward to seeing what that study comes back with; there are going to be some action steps with that in terms of how we can be better at making sure that the opportunities exist for everybody.
Ms. Dunn stated to piggy back on Ms. Sojka’s comments, Mr. Boosting and I have been working together and I think it would be a lot of interest to this Committee along with the Whole Board. A similar event that I believe went on last year where the realtors were able to come and speak to the County Board members and you may be a better feel by having Mr. Boosting’s group come in. We will be working on that to get it on the schedule.
Ms. Koch said my question is how that connects to this group with what you will be presenting to this group in October.
Mr. Blustein stated I am with the Illinois Realtors, Three Rivers Association of Realtors and I appreciate the work that this committee is doing. I think there are two purposes I think getting a large group of realtors together with the County Board just to have that interface and that interaction would be very positive. To showcase what the County is doing and showcase what’s going on with real estate market locally. In terms of providing to comment to the committee in a future meeting I think it will be important so we can drill down specifically on consumer demand. What are relators hearing from their consumers; where are the needs not being met? I am not sure we will dive too deep into it; probably some policy prescriptions so ideas that we have seen work in other Municipalities and regions around the country. I just want to clarify one thing that John Greuling said at his meeting. He said he was in Minneapolis and he said there is no more single family housing. That is not correct, there is no more single family zoning. I just read an article from a real estate publication that has tracked where they have done away with single family zoning. You are not seeing a decimation it is still a majority single family houses. The result you are seeing is actually a lot of infill; where you have a decrepit property or rundown property and it doesn’t make market since to teardown that property and build a single family house. Now you are seeing an investor come in and duplex or fourplex. So you are seeing these ugly properties that are not getting rehabilitated getting rehabilitated. The vast majority in a single family neighborhood they are remaining single family.
Ms. Ventura said that is a great segue to what I was going to ask you about. I know in the past there has been some interest in having land banks in the area. Especially if there are houses that are red tagged. How can the County collect those properties and have a developer come in and present housing options that we desperately need.
Ms. Koch replied our THLG actually got a presentation from the land bank and it is something that they can’t participate in as the Will County Land Use Department. I let you explain it.
Mr. Pullman said you are talking about the South Suburban Land Bank. Last year we make an overture to join that group; the City of Joliet is already a member of that land bank. We were unprepared for the on slot of opposition that we received when we made that gesture. We did receive some interesting support from Phil Mock from the State’s Attorney’s Office about how to accomplish the same objectives as having a land bank, by forming our own land bank. We walked away from that meeting with other county departments licking our wounds. At the same time encouraged by the concept. A land bank offers some opportunities that we think are advantages. Over the last several years community development has demolished over 45 properties in the Fairmont community. We have not done anything with those properties, except put a lien on them for our demolition cost. We have no strategic plan it would be interesting to put those properties and put them into a land bank; and offer them as an incentive for a developer to come in. Presently we don’t have any strategy. Whenever there is a neighborhood that has a problem area and a demolition takes place we have no plan to do anything with that property. The opportunity to creating a land bank is something we will be studying at that level; and then presenting to this committee some of the pros and cons of doing that. There are some financial impacts to the County and we want to make sure we address those issues before we make that presentation. The idea of a land bank is just like any other bank; you invest in a bank the property grows in value, and stays in the land bank as an asset. Then that property is maintained by the land bank; that itself is an advantage because we in code enforcement receive many complaints of vacant properties that is not being maintained. This could be an advantage to discuss the topic.
2. Motion to Recommend to Provide Matching Funds with the City of Joliet
RESULT: APPROVED [UNANIMOUS]
MOVER: Rachel Ventura, Vice Chair
SECONDER: Jacqueline Traynere, Member
AYES: Koch, Ventura, Berkowicz, Brooks Jr., Traynere, Weigel
3. Homes for a Changing Region Grant Opportunity
VI. OTHER NEW BUSINESS
VII. PUBLIC COMMENT
VIII. CHAIRMAN'S REPORT / ANNOUNCEMENTS
Ms. Koch stated that our next meeting will be October 3, 2019.
1. Motion to Adjourn at 2. Statement
3. Motion to Adjourn at 12:47 PM
RESULT: APPROVED [UNANIMOUS]
MOVER: Herbert Brooks Jr., Member
SECONDER: Tom Weigel, Member
AYES: Koch, Ventura, Berkowicz, Brooks Jr., Traynere, Weigel
IX. EXECUTIVE SESSION