Low-income housing in Johnsburg?

JOHNSBURG – Developers are proposing something unusual for the village of Johnsburg: an apartment complex.

The village of about 6,300 people has one apartment complex. Banner Apartments is proposing a second, with some of the units for low-income residents.

There is a need for affordable housing in Johnsburg, Chris Hooker, a senior development associate with Banner, told the village’s Development and Government Affairs Committee.

“I see opportunity here,” he said. “I see that there’s potential growth here, and I like the area. I want to build things and stay here. I look at this as a potential partnership.”

The proposed complex would contain 72 units in three buildings on 21.2 acres just west of the Walmart on Route 31, according to Banner’s application.

Banner is applying for the low-income housing tax credit program, which means that in exchange for a financial incentive, it must reserve a certain percentage of units for residents who meet a low-income requirement.

In this case, at least 40 percent of units would need to be occupied by residents whose combined income is at or below 60 percent of the average median income, which in Johnsburg is about $40,000 a year.

“It’s not going to be a 100 percent Section 8 property as the concern typically goes,” Hooker said. “Are we going to be importing people from downtown Chicago to live in your community? No, that’s not the intent. There’s already a need here.”

The development committee will make a recommendation to the Village Board on whether to approve the developer’s proposal, but first it’s doing its homework, said Village Trustee Rich Janusz, who is also the committee’s chairman.

Janusz is planning trips to view similar complexes and talk to their local governments. He also wants to talk with the Johnsburg school district administration to see what effect the proposal could have on enrollment.

Its members will likely report some of their findings at the committee’s next meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at Johnsburg Village Hall, 1515 Channel Beach Ave.

Janusz’s top concern at this point is the density of the proposed complex.

“That’s an awful lot of building, an awful lot of units on a small piece of property. That’s a lot of people in a small space. I don’t care if it’s Section 8 or Hollywood,” he said.

Much of the 21.1 acres cannot be developed because Dutch Creek runs through the property, Hooker said. Running Brook Farm Boulevard would be continued past Walmart, and the three buildings would be located south of it.

Johnsburg’s only other apartment complex also is near Walmart, just off Route 31.

But proposed complex’s location is at the heart of Janusz’s second question: Is that the best and highest possible use for that land?

The site is in what is shaping up to be Johnsburg’s retail corridor and is close to a proposed Metra station.

While that’s what appealed to the developers, it also has board members asking whether they could get more in terms of potential revenue from a more commercial use.

It’s a prime development location, committee member Greg Klemstein said.

Janusz said would like to see some of the tax burden taken off residents, which is why he’s an advocate for more commercial development in the village.

He said he’s also not convinced that there’s a problem with affordable housing in the area, adding that while there aren’t a lot of rentals in Johnsburg, there are some just on the other side of the village limits in northern McHenry.

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