Differing Opinions on Affordable Housing at the Winnetka Council Meeting
During a three-hour meeting, Winnetka residents and community leaders shared their thoughts on the affordable housing plan.
Winnetka trustees took a straw poll on Tuesday night and said they would heed their constituents' desire to put a formal end to the affordable housing discussion at their Dec. 6 meeting.
Below is a cross-section of voices heard at the council meeting.
In support of the affordable housing discussion:
- Joseph Shank, senior minister of Winnetka Congregational Church: "I worry about my taxes; they're way high. I'm the only one of my staff that can live here in Winnetka. It takes a village to raise people. I've married some of you. I've buried some of you. We've been through some tragedies. And I think our children do better when their teachers are running around in the community. When they can see their police officers and firefighters on the streets."
- Becky Hurley, chair of the Winnetka Plan Commission: "I'm hearing a lot of pain. People are struggling, both because of high taxes and because there are fewer places to live. We've heard statements through email chains that this will bring in Section 8 housing. We're hearing not about Cabrini-Green, but Winnetka-Green. I don't know where these statements are coming. The income levels addressed start at $100,00. So unless you're scared of bankers or junior lawyers, I don't think you have Section 8."
- Gail Schechter, executive director of Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs: "People who have lower incomes who live here are struggling. This is additive. If it does happen, it will only add to the revenue stream of the village with no cost. I urge you to pass this."
In opposition of the affordable housing discussion:
- Gerald Scully, resident: "I don't think we need social engineering. There are good intentions, but it doesn't work. There are so many things in our country that our government wants to do for the people instead of getting out of the way and letting people do what they want."
- Bob Mucci, resident: "That's our checks and balances in this system: your promise to uphold the caucus policy. You haven't heard one person that lives here who is in favor of this. Your job couldn't be any easier."
- Robert Leonard, resident: "As I see this, it's a solution looking for a problem. Across the street from me is a two-bedroom house that's been on the market for months. There doesn't seem to be interest in it. I don't understand why we're looking into affordable housing when there doesn't seem to be any demand."
Carol Fessler, of the Winnetka Caucus Council, presented survey results that showed that 67 percent of taxpayers in the village do not want to pursue the Affordable Housing Plan, as drafted by the Winnetka Plan Commission. Conversely, Fessler said, 27 percent of those surveyed said they thought there should be at least some action taken to provide housing options for a more diverse range of incomes.
The 2011 survey results (posted in the Patch Media Uploader) show varied responses according to the question.
Question 19: "As an overall concept, should Winnetka expand its Affordable Housing Plan to set aside affordable housing units and provide tools to bridge the affordability gap for qualifying households?"
Answer: 69 percent of those surveyed said "Winnetka needs more affordable housing options for seniors," and 64 percent said the same for "those who work in the community."
Question 20: "If you think that Winnetka SHOULD NOT expand its Affordable Housing Plan, please specify the reasons."
Answer: 85 percent of those who do not support more affordable housing said, "It is not appropriate for Village government to be involved in determining who can live here and what prices can be charged for housing in Winnetka," and 79 percent said, "The Village has higher priorities than Affordable Housing."