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St. Charles lowers affordable housing fee for developers

ST. CHARLES – Developers in St. Charles now will face a 70-percent lower fee for multi-family units not meeting the city's affordable housing requirement.

At the city's discretion, developers may pay a fee in lieu of building the city's required affordable housing. The new fee is $5,000 per non-compliant unit compared to $72,819 the city previously required. 

Under St. Charles' inclusionary housing ordinance, 10 percent of all new housing must be affordable in developments of more than 15 units. The Illinois Housing Development Authority established that affordable currently equates to no more than $1,025 in monthly rent for a two-bedroom unit.

Reducing the fee in lieu of affordable housing was the topic of a lengthy discussion Feb. 6 by the Planning and Development Committee. At the committee's recommendation, the City Council on Feb. 21 approved the lower fee in a 9-1 vote.

Alderman William Turner was among city officials supporting the fee reduction in St. Charles. He was concerned that nearby towns without a fee or with a lower fee “is where builders will want to build,” he said.

St. Charles is the only local community that has an inclusionary housing ordinance. However, Batavia officials are considering adopting one. Under the proposal, Batavia would require a $1,000 in-lieu fee from developers for units that do not meet a 10 percent affordable housing requirement.

St. Charles aldermen did not want the city's previous in-lieu fee to deter new residential building projects, such as the proposed 250 multi-family Prairie Winds development on the north side of Bricher Road west of Randall Road.

City officials adopted an inclusionary housing ordinance in 2008. At that time, they set the in-lieu fee at $140,000, lowering it to $104,500 in 2010. The city suspended the fee in 2013 after determining that more than 25 percent of the city's housing stock was affordable at that time.

St. Charles reinstated the fee in 2016, when affordable housing in the city had dropped to 11.2. percent. That year, city officials decided the previous fee was too high and lowered it to $72,819 for both single- and multi-family developments. That fee will continue to apply to single-family developments.

So far, the city has collected very little in-lieu fees because of slow development in recent years. But with the possibility of new development, such as Prairie Winds, it is urgent that the city decide how to put future in-lieu fees it collects to good use rather than letting the money sit idly by, said John Hall, St. Charles Housing Commission member. Mayor Ray Rogina responded that he wants the city to work with the commission to establish that use. 

Turner suggested a possible use for in-lieu fees that the city collects would be to assist homeless veterans.

Planning commissioner steps down

During the Feb. 21 council meeting, Mayor Ray Rogina proclaimed Feb. 13 through 17 Random Acts of Kindness and Random Acts Matter Week in St. Charles.

Also on Feb. 21, Rogina praised Brian Doyle following his resignation from the Planning Commission. A commissioner since 2014, Doyle has been a “key example of what makes our community great” and was a “conscious conscience” as a city planner, Rogina said. 

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