Affordable Housing Initiatives in Northbrook

On December 8, 2020 the Northbrook Board of Trustees unanimously adopted a series of Ordinances and Resolutions to advance its policies on promoting affordable housing. The Village adopted an Affordable Housing Plan in 2005 with the stated goal of increasing the supply of affordable housing units to ten percent (10%) of the total housing stock. The 2005 Affordable Housing Plan used the State of Illinois’ definition of “affordable housing”, meaning that housing units for sale or rent are within the means of households that have “moderate-income” levels (households with income of 50% to 80% of the area median household income) or “low-income” levels (affordable to households with income of no more than 50% of the area median household income).  Households are expected to have to pay no more than 30% of their income on housing. 

The latest estimates by the State of Illinois (2018) found that 5.70% of the housing units in Northbrook are affordable. Despite having adopted the 2005 Affordable Housing Plan, the Village had only moderate success implementing the original plan. The map below illustrates the percentage of housing units that were “affordable” in 2018 for Northbrook and nearby municipalities based on the State of Illinois definition.


Affordable Housing Percentages Map

In June of 2019 the Board of Trustees held a meeting to establish their primary goals for the next several years.  The three primary goals of the Village were to:

  1. Increase the amount to of affordable housing in the community;
  2. Take local actions to address the issues of climate change; and 
  3. Improve the Village’s communications efforts.

A link to the June 8, 2019 meeting minutes is available here.

After setting the initial goal of increasing the amount of affordable housing in the community, the Board of Trustees and Plan Commission held a series of meetings, including a joint meeting of the Plan Commission and Board, to discuss the best way to craft the policies before initiating the amendments. An August 27, 2019 report by the Department of Development & Planning Services helped provide useful background information on housing conditions and policy options. The August 2019 report can be viewed here.

The Board favored the use of an “inclusionary housing” requirement for larger developments that stipulated that a certain percentage of new housing units constructed would need to be maintained as affordable housing.  They also favored the use of a demolition tax on existing homes that are torn down (an approach used by Highland Park, Lake Forest and others).  Funds collected through the demolition tax and other sources (such as “in lieu fees”) would be deposited in a special housing trust fund to help advance local housing initiatives. Key policy issues were thoroughly discussed by the Board of Trustees in these meetings prior to setting a date for a public hearing. Minutes of the initial Board and Plan Commission meetings are available through the links below:

The complete agenda packets for each meeting, the minutes and a video recording of each meeting can also be viewed here.  

Plan Commission Review & Recommendation

The Plan Commission held two public hearings on this application (September 15 and October 20).  Copies of the meeting minutes and full agenda packets which include staff reports and background information for each of the Plan Commission meetings can also be viewed here

On November 17, 2020 the Plan Commission adopted Resolution No. 20-PC-12 by voted 7-1 (with one member absent) recommending approval of the Affordable Housing amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Code.  Minutes from the Plan Commission review of the formal application can be found here. The Plan Commission recommended approval of a series of documents, including:

  1. Amendments to the text of the Northbrook Comprehensive Plan to establish more specific policies goals and strategies related to affordable housing and diversity in the Village;
  2. Amendments to the Northbrook Zoning Code to establish “inclusionary housing requirements for larger developments in the Village (described in greater detail later in this report);
  3. The Northbrook Municipal Code being amended to incorporate necessary accompanying changes including, but not limited to:
    1. Establishing a local Housing Trust Fund, 
    2. Establishing a Demolition Tax to help fund other affordable housing initiatives in the Village; and
    3. Establishing an amount of a fee in lieu of providing affordable housing.
  4. Amendments to the 2005 Affordable Housing Plan for the Village of Northbrook, to reflect the progress made in implementing the objectives of the 2005 plan and the future actions needed to properly implement the recommendations.

The Plan Commission also recommended that the Village take some additional actions:

  • Establish Administrative Policies and Procedures for the implementation of the Affordable Housing program in order to establish clear standards for dealing with income qualifications, how to consider assets in the determination of income eligibility, and standards for when and if an affordable unit can be subleased. 
  • Enter into an agreement for an organization or firm to assist the Village Plan Commission, Board of Trustees and Staff in the review of affordable housing development proposals and the administration of the affordable housing program over time. 

Board of Trustees Approval of Affordable Housing Components on December 8, 2020

On December 8, 2020, the Board of Trustees reviewed the recommendations of the Plan Commission.  After hearing additional public comments and reading aloud the many messages that had been sent to the Village regarding affordable housing in Northbrook, the Board of Trustees unanimously adopted the following:

Basic Elements of the Affordable Housing Code Amendment

The Zoning Code amendment, while rather lengthy and complex has the following basic components:

  • The ordinance requires larger (not all) new developments to have 15% of their units be affordable, based on Average Median Income (AMI) levels for the Chicago metropolitan area. 
  • It does not apply to any new developments or subdivisions of five (5) units/lots or less.
  • It does not apply to any existing or approved development.
  • It does not apply to any existing or proposed non-residential (office, commercial, industrial) developments.
  • It does not apply to senior living, assisted living or nursing homes.
  • New single family subdivisions with six (6) to nineteen lots are not required to provide affordable housing units. Instead, they can pay a fee based on 15% of the number of lots. In the case of a new 10-lot subdivision, they would pay a “fee in lieu” based on 1.5 units (10*15%).  The proposed fee in lieu amount is $125,000/unit.  Thus, a fee of $187,500 (effectively $18,750/lot) would be collected and placed in a special housing trust fund by the Village to be used solely for housing initiatives.
  • New multi-family developments of six (6) units or more are expected to provide 15% of their total units (after receiving any density bonuses that are available) on-site.  The code amendment includes the following as an example:

A developer proposes to construct a 40-unit multiple family residential development:

- The developer will be required to offer 6 of the units as affordable housing units (15% of 40 = 6 Affordable Units and 34 Market Rate Units.)  

- If the 6 affordable units are provided, the developer may then receive an additional development density incentive set forth in Section 9-307, allowing the development to expend to 46 units, one additional unit for each affordable housing unit provided. A final round of calculations is performed to determine the total affordable housing unit requirement: 15% of 46 units = 6.9.  Since 6.9 includes a fraction greater than ½, the requirement is to provide 7 affordable now seven (7) affordable units in addition to the 40 market rate units.)

  • The ordinance does not encourage the development of so-called “Section 8 public housing”. The ordinance mirrors many of the components of the affordable housing ordinance that have successfully been in place in Highland Park for the past 15 years, which promotes the development of a small number of affordable units that are carefully incorporated into new developments.
  • The ordinance provides opportunities for developers to utilize design flexibility in the way they incorporate affordable units into their development, while ensuring they are still compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. There are different schedules of affordability established for rental units and for-sale units. For rental units, a three-tiered approach is established for the rental units. For purchase units, a two-tiered system is established.

If you have questions regarding the affordable housing standards, please contact the Department of Development & Planning Services.