Whenever a housing development is proposed for our landlocked village, objections are raised out of fear that it will create density. The assumption, of course, is that density is bad thing.
Density, it is argued, causes too much traffic; it strains public services and infrastructure; it attracts people who won’t fit in and who move too often; it reduces property values; and it undermines the character of our community and increases crime.
All of these arguments, I’m sure, will be used to oppose the development of 325 new housing units near the Desplaines Avenue Blue Line stop, a project being proposed by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). (For more information on this, refer to the Forest Park Review’s Aug. 3 article “CMAP and village join forces to shape village’s future.”)
The problem with these arguments is none of them are true. I found a report, by the California Planning Roundtable, on affordable and high-density housing in California that supports this.
Myth: High-density and affordable housing will cause too much traffic.
Fact: The study discovered that people who live in high-density and affordable housing units in parts of California own fewer cars and drive less. In Sacramento, for example, there are, on average, 1.3 cars per household in high-density and affordable homes, as opposed to 2.0 per household in single-family tracts. In addition, high-density neighborhoods tend to encourage retail development within walking distance.
Myth: High-density development strains public services and infrastructure.
Fact: High-density development offers greater efficiency in use of public services. In Forest Park, development will increase revenue through both property and retail taxes. Cha-Ching!
Myth: People who live in high-density and affordable housing won’t fit into my neighborhood.
Fact: They already live and work here. I counted 30 higher-density apartment or condo buildings within a three-block radius of my church on the north side of town, and I live in one of them. The only reason I’m still in town is because I could buy a condo for half the cost of a bungalow; and I think the other 50 unit-owners fit in here very well.
Myth: Residents of affordable housing move too often to be stable community members.
Fact: When rents are guaranteed to remain stable, tenants move less often. The report states, “These statistics make it clear that, far from creating transient communities, local governments that approve permanently affordable housing may be helping their communities become more stable.”
Myth: Affordable housing reduces property values.
Fact: “No study in California has ever shown that affordable housing developments reduce property values,” the report reads.
Myth: High-density and affordable housing increases crime.
Fact: The report declares that no studies have shown this to be true, either. Local government, police, and managers and developers can help deter crime through designing the building so it’s safe, performing tenant-screening, and providing good security, just to name a few examples.
I have no crystal ball, but I think that America’s love affair with the automobile has been a long, long honeymoon that is about to end. As the price of gas rises, public transportation and corner grocery stores will become increasingly important. Mayor Calderone said that the point of discussions with CMAP is “to plan way out into the future.”
I like that kind of thinking. A public workshop is scheduled for Sep. 14, although no time or location is available just yet. We’ll be able to view maps, provide and receive input, and discuss how the land can and should be used.
I hope the workshop is well attended and that we leave our myths at home; that way, we can entertain these proposals with open minds.