Naperville Councilman Patrick Kelly “It Was Like Holy Cow”

If you keep kicking the can down the road, you finally reach a dead end. That’s where Naperville city officials find themselves with regard to the lack of affordable housing in Naperville. This comes as no surprise, the city council has been talking about this for years. That’s the problem, they’ve been talking without taking necessary action for years.

Twice a State of Illinois agency has cited Naperville for inadequate affordable housing, Naperville is the only city in Illinois with a population of more than 50,000 residents cited for the shortage. More than 25% of Naperville households are paying higher housing costs than federal government guidelines define as affordable which is less than 30% of household income is spent on rent or mortgage, and utilities.

This means that Naperville needs to add no less than 3,000 lower cost homes for buyers with incomes of less than $50,000, and more than 2,000 low-cost rental units for renters with incomes below $35,000, and as time goes on, it will only get worse. By the middle of the century almost 14,000 new housing units need to be added to reach a balanced housing mix of both affordable and market-rate units.

Naperville city councilman Patrick Kelly, also a member of Naperville’s Housing Advisory Commission, was flabbergasted with the thought. Astonishingly he said, “It was like, holy cow! That’ a lot of units! Where would we even put them!”

That is not what you want to hear from a sitting member of the city council, especially one sitting on the Housing Advisory Commission! Where has councilman Kelly been while this issue has been marinating and boiling over. Simply stated, it’s either a foolish statement, or Kelly is in ‘over his head’ which is a nicer way of saying he is incompetent.

Kelly’s comment would be comparable to the principal of a grade school, looking out the window of his office, on the first day of school and saying, “Holy cow, look at all those kids! Where can we put them!”

There is a way that councilman Patrick Kelly can try to redeem himself and solve two major Naperville issues at the same time; the issues of affordable housing and the Fifth Avenue Development. Simply suggest building a 20-story low-income housing project on the property and bingo, both issues solved. Now all he has to do is get four other council members to buy-in to the idea, and push it through without public input.

Show 11 Comments


  1. Gerard Hubert Schilling

    Cost of housing and apartment rents are a function of among other things TAXES! As taxes continue to go up especially State and local so also does realer state costs!

    BTW Schools, Park Districts, Bell Towers, Citywide cell service, all building and other permits etc., etc. have made reasonable and affordable housing in Naperville impossible.

    The suggestion to put up a high rise slum is ludicrous and unacceptable to solve this problem!

    Cut School and city taxes and sell the electric company and the golf courses would go a long way to solving the problem.

    • watchdog

      The idea of putting up a high rise slum is ‘ludicrous and unacceptable’ however remember this is government, hence all options are viable; all it takes is five votes and anything can happen.

    • Jim Haselhorst

      It seems like your solution for every problem or challenge the city faces is cut revenues and to launch a garage sell.

      Name one city with a population over 100K that has done this and actually succeeded, has gain benefits that lasted more that 2 or 3 years.

      The reality is if the city did what you keep pushing for it would mean lowering educational standards, lowering quality of life standards and lowering public safety standards. But it is these very standards that makes Naperville’s brand so special. We would quickly loose or high educational ranking, or high quality of life ranking, our family friendly ranking, etc. That is not progress, it is major back sliding. Back sliding on everything it has taken this community close to three decades to achieve and would like takely much longer to regain once lost.

      Selling the electrical utility is not a new idea. It is in fact a very old idea. One look at several times over the last 30 years and rejected each time. And for one very good reason. It makes no financial sense. There is only one possible buyer for Naperville’s electrical capital assets and that is ComEd. Its a buyers market with ComEd holding all of the cards. And once those assets are solid there is only one company in the area that can provide for the city’s power needs. That is ComEd, and anyone that has ever seen a ComEd bill know how they nickel and dime their customer. Selling this utility would only make the situation worse for Naperville residents not better.

      You are always ready and willing to jump on the quick fix, that at best will only provides a few years benefits before extracting a devastating premium from the resident of Naperville. In other words solutions that are good for the short sells but bad for people looking to make a long term investment in their community.

      • Gerard H Schilling

        Look around Jim. The state is dying from overtaxing, graft and corruption. The future generations can’t afford to live here because the established few control the levers of power and continue to drive up the cost of living in our fair city by acquiring facilities and services which rightfully belong in the private sector.

        Power plants, golf courses, exercise clubs, school child care babysitting programs, bell towers, museums, car test tracks, electric car charging stations, grass to fuel conversion plants, citywide wifi etc. are mostly boondoggles where the cronies and connected rip off the tax payers over and over again.

        Big government is always inefficent, lethargic, twice as costly and prone to massive corruption. Small is ALWAYS better because people know how to spend their money better then you guy!

        • Jim Haselhorst

          The city of Naperville does not own power plants. It is one of roughly three dozen cities that control the IMEA, which purchases most of the power it provides these cities from other privately owned power generating facilities (some of the same ones ComEd uses)

          The Park District’s ownership of both the golf courses and exercise club are positive cash flow operations, which mean they provide the money needed to fund other community needs. Making this a good example or proof that government organization do operate efficiently to the taxpayers benefits.

          Most cities own the museums in their community. In fact I know of no private museum that operates at a profit. They all rely on funding from residents either in the form of taxes, community grants or donations. So by your standards there would be no museum since none of them make money making them all boondoggles. Same applies to Libraries, yet I have never heard to recommend the city get rid of these. In fact this the one area of city expansion you have never complained about.

          As to the test track and charging stations, these are actively used resources which help attract residents of other communities to come to ours to purchase what they need rather then in the community they live in. And that keeps our property taxes down.

          We live in a world that is changing very quickly. Even small, nibble organizations have trouble keeping up. This is not inefficiency or lethargy, it is the new world order under the Internet, which every organization (public and private) is struggling to deal with.

  2. Patrick Kelly

    Certainly not my finest moment of giving off the cuff quotes to a reporter, but lesson learned on that front. As for the substance of the article, I was mostly reacting to the number of total units (not just affordable) that the consultant predicts we will need to add by 2040, which was 11,700-13,000. If the city wants to try to meet that predicted demand, I think it will be a real challenge to figure out how to do so. The Housing Advisory Commission has been working hard on the issue, and will likely be presenting recommendations to Council within the next few months, but there are not going to be any quick or easy solutions to this problem that has been percolating for a long time.

    • Jim Haselhorst

      There is only one way to meet this demand. The tried and true ways, used by every city that has grown the way Naperville has. Higher density use.

      By lowering the residential density of the proposed 5th Ave Project the city does two things. First is set a precedence that will hamstring it ability to approve higher density redevelopment in other parts of the city (neighborhoods).

      Second it sends a message to residents that city officials are willing to abdicate their elected duty to act in the best interest of the city as a whole, in exchange for popularity with small neighborhood factions .

      Should neighborhood concerns be listened to and taken seriously? Of course, but in a dilemma situation were it is impossible to comply with all the neighborhood concerns without ignoring the greater needs of the city as a whole its time to put on the big boy pants and do what you were elected to do. That is to do what is best for the all the city’s residents even if it means being unpopular with some neighborhood communities.

      The current proposed 5th Ave development is a major disappointment. It falls way short of meeting the city’s needs as well as the potential of these properties. It looks more like a baby cabrini green but without the advantage of making any significant progress on the city’s affordable house problem.

      The currently proposed 5th Ave project basically consists of a handful of developments sites that could just as easily be done individually as they show no dependence on each other for development continuity. This basically defeats the grand continuity in development of these properties that was the main objective of this endeavour from the start.

      The best thing that could happen now would be a complete hard reset of the 5th Ave Project. Perhaps it would be best to develop these property one of two at a time and give up on doing some grand unified development. It just seems that developing all these properties together is biting off more then the majority of our current city’s leadership can handle.

      The 5th Ave Project was this city’s big chance to catch up on not only the affordable housing front but on the future housing needs of the city. To turn the corner on being hamstrung by older conventions around low density development and make the progress Naperville needs to make towards more higher density developments. And that opportunity is on the verge of being lost.

  3. PG

    Many good points have been made by everyone. Per professionals in the field, affordability at entry level, workforce and first-time ownership is at crisis levels.

    Developers have and continue to focus on high numbers of rental apartments along the Metra train line; Metro 59 Phase 1 offers 232 units, Phase II when complete will total 484 units, Marq on Main in Lisle offers 202 units, and 5th Avenue offers 118 units in addition to more in Naperville, Lisle, Downers, Darien, LaGrange, all along the way to and from Union Station likely adding to the affordability shortage.

    Plus, conversations regarding terminology can be confusing as affordable for some people may mean subsidized while others it does not. One recommendation was to generate terms of understanding and better evaluate the needs of the community, example: Affordable (federal/state subsidized), Attainable (workforce/entry-level/first-time) and Market (area market price).

    I may regret posting anything here as there always seems to be a ding no matter how helpful. Many sites and newspapers are all about the clicks, its metrics and posts that will ignite a response.


    • Jim Haselhorst

      You are correct there is a lot of confusion and ambiguity in defining affordable housing. I have come across many definition for this term by various housing groups. I have not come across any that defined affordable housing in terms of subsidized. The common reference is 30% of a defining gross income.

      For some this defining gross income is the poverty level, others it is state’s minimum wage for working 2080 hours/year and yet others say it is 60% of the gross median income for the community the housing is located in. Meeting any of standards would not require state or federal subsidizing to be possible in Naperville. They would, however, require the city to start green lighting more High rise (8 and up stories), high density residential development. It is possible for such a development to be a mixture of all types of housing (market, senior, affordable, luxury, empty nesters, etc.) and would be best if it were.

      Unfortunately, as long as city council members and other board members see their duty as appeasing neighborhood residents rather then leading Naperville, as a whole, into future growth and prosperity such a development has little chance of being approved because of the over abundance of NIMBYs in Naperville.

  4. Manny Singh

    I find it a bit unfair to pick on Mr. Kelly. Maybe he just now had a ‘holy cow’ moment. Hopefully now that he gets it, he can take action.

    How do you then defend the the rest of the council and the Mayor? I assume based on your lambasting of Mr. Kelly-that they ‘got it’. Yet they have done nothing, leading to the report that you quote.

    The alternative, is that they did not get it as well-in which case, it is not a unique situation with Mr. Kelly.

    • watchdog

      That’s like holy cow! That’s a lot of words. How can we even process them!

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