Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act has no clout

The Affordable Housing Planning and Appeal Act (AHPAA) of Illinois is more suggestion than law. Under the AHPAA, any municipality with less than 10 percent of total housing stock designated as affordable or a population of 1,000 or more is encouraged to submit a plan to the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) for increasing its number of affordable units. These non-exempt towns can achieve compliance by either designating 15 percent of all new or redevelopment construction projects as affordable; by increasing and maintaining affordability for ten percent of all housing stock; or increasing the total number of affordable units by three percentage points. Affordable here is defined as thirty percent or less of annual income for households earning 80 percent or less of the Area Median Income (AMI) for owner-occupied homes and 60 percent or less of AMI for rental units. There is no stipulation of how many units must be single-family houses and how many must be rentals. Meaning: municipalities can choose to build only houses or condos; apartments (those affordable units with the most stigma, especially in wealthy suburbs) can be omitted entirely.

None of these options, therefore, are difficult and none would create disturbance in a town’s overall composition. Yet 40 of the 68 towns identified as non-exempt by IHDA refused to submit plans.

Their reasoning: there is no consequence for non-compliance and the law is essentially pointless.

Under the Act, the IDHA has no authority to take legal action against municipalities that refuse to integrate affordable housing into their development strategies. The AHPAA was compromised into nothing before it was signed into law in 2003. The list of non-exempt municipalities, now to be released every five years, is simply a gentle reminder to governing bodies to consider providing for their constituents who earn less than the AMI.

The only possible repercussion for governments refusing to submit their housing plans comes if an affordable housing developer wants to appeal a denied permit.  The State Housing Appeals Board (SHAB), the legal entity in charge of deciding developer appeals cases, will side with all municipalities that have submitted their plans to IHDA, giving the freedom of development choice to complying governments. If an affordable developer appeals a permit denial in a non-complying area, however, SHAB could overturn the local government’s decision, thereby forcing affordable housing on unwilling communities.

Because there is no direction in the Act for implementing the affordable housing plans once they are submitted, it is possible for a municipality to create a promising document, gain protection against affordable housing developers, and continue constructing expensive, market-rate (or above market-rate) homes. The only benefit I see in the Act is that it will potentially create court-mandated affordable units in non-complying towns (and this happens only if an affordable developer first attempts a permit to build housing, is denied, and then wins their appeals case). It is a fluff law with predictably underwhelming results.


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