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Tri-Cities, North Aurora studying local home market to craft better policies

Homes for sale in Elburn.
Homes for sale in Elburn.

In the past six years, few elements of life in the Tri-Cities have changed as rapidly and as significantly as the local housing market.

And in coming months, officials in the cities of St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia, along with the village of North Aurora, will seek to learn how they can adjust city policies to better reflect the new reality, and using other people’s money to do it.

This summer, those community development officials will partner with Kane County and regional land planning group, the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, on a project to study the housing market along the Fox River in central Kane County.

Dick Untch, community development director for the city of Geneva, said the local project will come as part of CMAP’s larger program, Homes for a Changing Region.

That program, according to information supplied by Untch and attributed to CMAP, helps cities and villages in the Chicago area better understand their local housing stock, and craft policies to better match future housing needs.

“Our housing challenges don’t stop at municipal corporate limit lines,” Untch said. “These are regional issues.”

The study, which will run from July 2013 to August 2014, would analyze the market to identify “opportunities and gaps in the housing profile” and to better match local housing to the needs of the local workforce, according to the CMAP information sheet.

Local real estate agents said they welcomed such a study, noting that they hoped for a particular emphasis on opportunities for affordable housing for senior citizens and for young people seeking a start in life.

“You have to make sure your community is accommodating to everyone,” said Carrie Walter, a real estate agent with the St. Charles office of Keller Williams. “We need to make sure there are, for instance, places for retiring baby boomers and 20-somethings.

“Right now, those opportunities are harder to find locally.”

The governments of the Tri-Cities and North Aurora applied together last year to CMAP to participate in the program. 

Officials said the study will be funded by CMAP.

“This kind of housing analysis is something we’ve wanted to do for some time, but it just wasn’t in the budget,” Untch said.

Officials in St. Charles and Batavia said they also had high hopes for the study.

They noted that in the past few years, the market has changed markedly, because waves of home foreclosures have ravaged the market and slashed home prices by as much as 25 percent or more from their peak.

That, in turn, dried up the market for certain kinds of homes that once sold briskly in the region, while increasing demand for other kinds of dwellings, such as rental housing and apartments.

Development officials said they believe this study will give them a better handle on those changes and a better inkling of where the market is headed.

“We can’t plan for the future, if we don’t have a real understanding of what the needs are today,” said Rita Tungare, St Charles community development director. “The world is changing very fast, and there are some quickly changing trends that we need to be aware and cognizant of.”

Batavia Community Development Director Scott Buening said he anticipated Batavia’s city government could use the study to “go back and tweak” its development plans, as well as potentially craft an entirely new housing ordinance.

“This will give us guidance, and a snapshot of what the market holds for us,” Buening said. “It’s a worthwhile study to find what the community may need.”

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