Myra Garcia stands at a bus stop in the afternoon in McHenry waiting for her 9-year-old son to arrive after a day in school. The stop is down the street from the two-bedroom apartment where they live with Garcia’s 13-year-old daughter.
Garcia has lived in the apartment for about a year, because it’s more affordable.
“I feel more people have to live together because [housing] is more expensive,” Garcia said. “You can’t make it out there.”
After the housing bubble burst and the recession took its toll, living in rental units has become increasingly popular. In recent months there have been discussions of more multifamily developments being constructed in parts of McHenry County.
Among the questions people have had about the apartment construction is how many new students would be added.
In order to estimate how many school-aged children would end up living in a residential development and later help determine the impact fees paid to school districts, municipalities use a table put together by the Illinois School Consulting Service and Associated Municipal Consultants in 1996.
The table is titled: “Estimated Ultimate School Population per Dwelling Unit.”
The table was based off a formula put together by the city of Naperville to estimate how many new users of a school district or park system a new development would bring and determine the associated impact fees.
Pedcor’s Crystal Lake facility was estimated to generate 10.26 kindergarten through eighth-grade students, according to the 1996 table. Crystal Lake District 47 has 14 students at the apartment complex. Eight students are new to the district and six students who moved in were already in the district, officials have said.
According to a small analysis done by the Northwest Herald, there are higher numbers of children living in apartment buildings than what the table predicts for population density. The numbers reflect how more families are living in multi-family buildings.
In the table, there are estimates for population per dwelling unit. The table estimates there would be more children in a single-family house with two bedrooms versus a two-bedroom apartment.
Allison Laff, planning operations manager in Naperville, said the formula has its origin in the 1970s. Naperville, which uses its own population per dwelling unit table, last updated its table in 2007 to reflect its specific demographics.
Russell Farnum, the community development director for Algonquin, said communities use the Naperville formula because it’s been upheld by courts.
The formula says there would be more people and children in a single-family house than in an apartment.
“Typically when people start having children, they either would move into or buy a house,” Farnum said. “That’s the American dream.”
“I know these numbers are decades old, but they’re still valid up to the recession,” Farnum said. “How much the recession changed the way we think about housing in America ... will be up to debate over the next couple of years.”
Among the things that will need to be considered are millennials living in more urban areas and where they decide to settle down when they have children, Farnum said.
“In a few years, it might be worth taking a look at it,” Farnum said.
Farnum points out people who rent tend to be more transient and when newer apartment buildings open they do rent faster. Families with youngsters may just be moving from within a school district.
“It doesn’t mean [apartments] generate more kids,” Farnum said.
There has been a shift toward people living in rental units versus owner-occupied homes. For example, in McHenry between 2000 and 2010, the number of occupants per rental unit increased to 2.43 people per unit from 2.21.
In the same time period, the number of vacant houses increased to 666 from 255 in the 10-year period.
“Demographics change, the population is getting older, the number of people per household has changed,” said McHenry Deputy City Administrator Doug Martin.
Martin said the only way to update a table is to do a comprehensive study.
He added, however, that there is more interest in apartment buildings.
“As apartments become more in demand, it would be interesting to see if the numbers hold true,” Martin said. “It’s a macro question that relates to apartments.”
Mark Bertolozzi, the chief financial officer for District 15, said he’s sure the table is still valid.
He added, however, there now may be families who are doubling up, or have nieces and nephew living with them post-recession.
“As far as I know, it’s still accurate,” Bertolozzi said. “Once you go further along into housing recovery, there might be new buildings [and] perhaps a different study and the formula will be revised.”
Most of the apartment buildings in McHenry are about 50 years old or older, as there hasn’t been much residential construction recently.
“Most school districts have the flexibility in classrooms in buildings,” Bertolozzi said. “A few more kids, one way or another, you can accommodate that. If you had a big development, then you have to look at that.”
Crystal Lake Community Development Director Michelle Rentzsch said that more young families with young children might be looking to live in apartments.
She did say the table might not be spot on right now, but it’s not completely wrong either.
“It’s in the ballpark,” Rentzsch said.
Apartment student populations
Westside Crest Apartments in McHenry
Per formula: 7.808 kindergarten through 12th-grade students
Actual: 49 students
Skyridge Club Apartments in Crystal Lake
Per formula: 42.936 kindergarten through 12th-grade students
Actual: 56 students
Autumnwood Apartments in Woodstock
Per formula: 13.89 5- to 17-year-olds
Actual: 38 5- to 17-year-olds
Silver Creek Apartments in Woodstock
Per formula: 11.28 5- to 17-year-olds
Actual: 36 5- to 17-year-olds
Pedcor Apartment Complex in Crystal Lake, which opened in August
Per formula: 10.26 kindergarten through eighth-grade students
Actual: 14 students (eight new to the school district, six moved in from within district)
Source: McHenry District 15, Crystal Lake District 47, Crystal Lake-based Community High School District 155, Cunat Inc.