Report urges regional plan for housing
“Homes for a Changing Region” is a report on housing concerns for Oak Park, Bellwood, Berwyn, Forest Park and Maywood.
The planning document is a collaborative effort between the five villages, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and the Metropolitan Planning Council.
The complete report can be found at:
Updated: June 4, 2012 10:59AM
In the wake of the 2008 “great recession,” the Oak Park area was facing an unprecedented housing foreclosure crisis that threatened the region economically and socially.
In 2009, Oak Park and four neighboring suburbs — Berwyn, Forest Park, Maywood and Bellwood — came together in a “sub-regional collaboration” to craft methods for addressing those challenges.
The result has been a three-year effort by the West Cook County Housing Collaborative to stabilize housing stock in each village and plan proactively on housing and zoning issues.
The collaborative has garnered $11 million in federal and state funding for comprehensive planning and a revolving housing assistance loan fund to help those efforts.
Now the West Cook Collaborative is looking farther out in the future. In April, a regional planning agency collaborative issued a 120-page report, “Homes for a Changing Region.”
The report was written by the West Cook Collaborative along with three regional agencies: the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and the Metropolitan Planning Council.
The report subhead, “Implementing balanced change at the local level” reflects the need for communities with common interests and challenges to work together on solutions.
All politics may be local, but some solutions to common challenges may be regional or sub-regional, planners noted. CMAP provides local municipalities with land use and planning expertise many cannot afford on their own.
“The value of the plan is you are able to leverage tremendous amounts of resources,” said CMAP senior planner Andrew Williams-Clark.
Members of the group have been visiting the villages, making presentations on the “Homes” report. They were at the Oak Park Village Board on April 2 and spoke with the Oak Leaves editorial board on April 27.
As an example, the planners pointed to the Eisenhower Expressway corridor and preparing for possible changes to mass transit there, and how the villages can prepare for related housing and land use.
Besides detailed socio-economic and housing overviews of all five municipalities, the “Homes” report makes recommendations for “future sub-regional action.”
“It’s an opportunity to take a completely fresh perspective” with planning and development, said Oak Park Village President David Pope.
Oak Park will call on the collaborative’s resources as it drafts its new Comprehensive Plan.
A key question is, Pope said, “Are there ways for us to tie together land uses that advance regionally with local interests?”
“If you don’t have a plan, you get whatever comes to you,” said village trustee Colette Lueck.
The Metropolitan Planning Council’s Nancy Firfer, whose background includes serving both as Northbrook’s mayor and on a school board, said municipalities “must think proactively.”
“If you plan it right, that’s when the solid investment will come,” she said.
At the local end, Oak Park has received $200,000 to redo its 22-year old Comprehensive Plan. That will serve as the guide for any housing development between now and 2040.
Lueck said once a firm has been selected to work on the new comprehensive plan, “there will be a huge conversation” with the public and various stakeholders on the details.
“We haven’t figured out how that discussion will take place,” said Pope, though he referenced the 18-month public discussion surrounding the redevelopment of Madison as a good model.
“It’s more of a philosophical document,” Lueck said. “One that says, ‘Here are the qualities we want to see in Oak Park.’”