I moved to new digs last week – an internal move from the 2nd floor of my 2-flat to the 1st floor apartment. Our lovely Chicago weather offered many days of indoor solitude to contemplate the personal significance of the move, the beauty of this home and the genius of flexible housing – 2-flats and bungalows will compete for first prize in the category.

If you listen to our village council/plan commission talk about renters you would hear that renters are bad for civilization, renters have “no skin in the game,” renters are sorta off to begin with as they don’t have/want a single family home on a large lot to call their own. Condo owners are iffy, too, but we’ll tolerate them out of commercial necessity. 

What a crew of smug, lazy, broad-brushing bloviators. Their ideas were half-baked 20 years ago.

My property is a useful example of the problems we face in crafting the new comprehensive plan – both the weaknesses of the present non-effective system and, hopefully, doable solutions for those who want our non-original 2-flats de-converted back to single family homes.

Firstly, know that the 2-flat+coach house we purchased in 2003 has operated as intended in elegant flexibility. Besides its good bones, the appeal of the property was that it could function supportively for extended family living. My sister, her husband and I were 50ish and thinking we wouldn’t be young forever so we bought it as an investment in our future. 

Lordy, the future jumped us all. In 2004 I was downsized and moved to the 2nd  floor apartment. In late 2005 my brother-in-law was diagnosed w/brain cancer and died in 2007. In 2006 my sister was diagnosed w/younger onset Alzheimer’s and moved to the first floor apartment in 2008, where we shared independent but supportive space until recently. I thank the heavens each day for the blessings this house offered us as we navigated the storm.

During those ten years the representatives of the Village of Forest Park behaved, as my sister said, like beasts. She’s not wrong. I would add idiotic and working against the true interests of the village, which simply has no sane or logical approach to our so-called “biggest problem.”

At this point we’d do well to consider that renters are not the problem but a symptom of two other problems, namely:

1) The decades of village council neglect that caused the problem and now sustains the problem in the search for votes, paying for favors and exacting revenge in the housing game. Get the politicians out of the process, hire professionals to do the job and let them do it.

2) Proviso High School District. If all our converted 2-flats magically became single family homes, could the market absorb them? Hard to say but the free market might have had its say about our demographics.

Unless these two problems can find some resolution we’re simply wasting our energy.

If we’re serious, we should:

•Put some numbers and analysis to the so-called renter problems – for the love of God, what are they and where are they?

•Be proactive with owners BEFORE they sell – like two-three years before. My home is a prime candidate to de-convert back to single family but opportunity only knocks before the property transfers. A counseled approach could be especially effective for owners of bungalows with basement rentals as the conversion is relatively easy and should result in a richer sales price as a single family home.

•Zoning appeals and legal non-conforming information has evaporated from the village website since about 2010. What are the rules, now, for owners and prospective buyers?  Get a blog, Dept. of Public Health and Safety Head Glinke.

•Deal with coach houses. Forcing them into obsolescence might sound like a dandy theory but it also inflicts 50 years of under-maintained properties on the neighbors.

•Finally, seek therapy regarding curb cuts; it’s pathological.

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