One Realtor's Perspective on North Shore Affordable Housing

To intervene or not to intervene, that is the question…

I say hats off to the Winnetka Village Board as they recently ended all discussions on affordable housing within their community.

RELATED: Tempers Flare as Winnetka Halts Affordable Housing Debate

In the end the village decided to respect the views of the public that were made known via “good solid English questions” on their caucus survey, as clearly explained by Winnetka Trustee Dick Kates (see youtube Winnetka video). I wish Lake Forest, in their recent survey of the public, would have used “plain solid English” and asked if its citizens support the use of taxpayer and City money to fund affordable housing initiatives within the boundaries of Lake Forest. Instead, a very watered-down question was included, one that will likely produce a cloudy interpretation of how citizens feel.        

As a North Shore Realtor and homeowner, I wonder if adequate affordable housing in the communities surrounding Lake Forest doesn’t already exist. If you happened to be a homeowner in any of these surrounding communities, how would you feel if tomorrow some additional capacity of housing with similar cost but superior desirability is artificially introduced to directly compete with yours? I always balk when selected stakeholders are somehow completely ignored, or when a select few decide that they can dictate policy either without asking the stakeholders or by otherwise assuming what is ultimately best for them.    

I’ve heard it said that the affordable housing formula doesn’t work when the price of land is too high, that it’s an impediment when trying to implementing affordable housing. Well that’s what we find in Lake Forest and Winnetka and elsewhere on the North Shore. How about respecting real world economics and respecting all the existing homeowners that have earned their residences and pay significant property taxes every year to support their community? And if instead we (or ‘they’ representing the ‘we’) choose to reengineer and intervene on things, who should be appointed to draw the lines on our maps and decide where it is appropriate to best manipulate where additional affordable housing should be?  

Looking to tomorrow, I just hope that when anyone questions affordable housing initiatives within tight geographical boundaries (such as a community or a neighborhood) it doesn’t automatically mean that that person is selfish or supports some kind of isolationism. Please be sure, I am not against houses being affordable. I’m just stating the reality that nearby there exists adequate affordable housing and I’m reiterating my belief that governments should not be expected to “add value” by attempting to achieve some policy by overriding the economics of any market. Stakeholders, such as investors or existing homeowners, might lose some confidence in home values going forward, and I wonder what that could lead to?

Back to today, I always look forward to representing anyone who is able and motivated to buy a home. From the perspective of the past five years on the North Shore, together we can find very comparably affordable homes for sale today. It’s a buyer’s market, partner with a buyer’s brokerage, Exclusive Buyer Brokers LLC.

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Gail Schechter January 11, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Mr. Brandel asks: "How about respecting real world economics and respecting all the existing homeowners that have earned their residences and pay significant property taxes every year to support their community?" My response is "real world economics" includes sizable subsidies to suburban homeowners, particularly through the mortgage interest deduction which costs taxpayers the equivalent of 3 times the HUD budget, or more than the entire military R&D budget (http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2011/04/17/magazine/17top-down2.html?ref=magazine). Its greatest beneficiaries are in the top 10%. Moreover, it is immoral to use income as a proxy for individual social worth. The emergency room technician, credentialed as she is, will never earn what an investment manager earns, but we all agree that we need EMTs. Ultimately, Mr. Brandel misses the point about providing housing at a range of prices as a matter of public policy. That point is about people. Stable neighborhoods allow residents to keep their families together and make it easier for public workers to get to work. Deciding how much of our land is restricted to single-family homes and to parks, to name two uses, are matters of public policy. We must be honest with ourselves about who we choose to benefit through our policies. Governments are within their right to legislate for affordable housing which is another way of saying provide opportunities for people who also "earn" their way here and are just not rich.
niwrad January 11, 2012 at 08:19 PM
No working link to the original LIsa Black article? Hmm. Too bad ...there would have been helpful background information. But don't let facts get in the way of opinion pieces, right!? So Realtor Rich (that doesn't even live in Winnetka and, thereby, according to the "rules of WHOA" should have no business commenting on our Village's decisions....as he is an OUTSIDER!) thinks there should be affordable housing. But just "nearby"...in other words, not near him. Nice. Next time we buy property, we'll steer clear of Exclusive Buyer Brokers, LLC.


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