Joy Gayter had lived in Lake Forest and Lake Bluff for 24 years before a divorce forced her to sell the family home at a loss.
Her two daughters were already in college, but she was determined to keep her youngest in the school district in which he grew up. For a year and a half, she rented a home at a price she described as “outrageously expensive,” eating through what savings she had.
Then she saw an ad looking for people interested in affordable housing.
“I didn’t know anything like this existed,” Gayter said. “It’s a great program, and I think it’s really helpful for people in my position.”
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Gayter applied for the program, and on May 12, she and her son moved into a new home on McKinley Road, one of the first two affordable housing units to be offered through a partnership between Lake Forest and the Highland Park-based nonprofit Community Partners for Affordable Housing.
The three-bedroom home has enough space for Gayter’s daughters to stay when they are home from school.
“To have a home of our own feels really good for everybody,” Gayter said. “We feel really settled. Even though the girls aren’t home as often, they are thrilled.”
Amy Kaufman, director of community relations for Community Partners, said her organization often helps families like Gayter’s.
“Some have had a change of circumstances,” Kaufman said. “They’ve lived in a community for years and years, but because of job loss, or divorce or death, they can no longer afford to. This helps them stay close to their friends and family at a time when they need that most.”
Homes Let Young Families Return
Affordable Housing Advisory Board Chairman Michael Burns said the economic downturn has led to a tremendous need for affordable housing in Lake Forest.
“I think not only do we have a need in the community, I think we have a responsibility as a community,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do. We have people who are long-term residents where who have fallen on hard times.”
The housing also helps low-wage earners. The second unit is now occupied by a young couple who grew up in Lake Forest.
“They are thrilled to be back here, close to their jobs and very large family,” Kaufman said.
Tom Morsch, a member of the Lake Forest housing trust and former alderman, said affordable housing is also important for seniors.
“Lake Forest has some of the highest-priced homes in the country, and there was a need to make sure that we had affordable housing stock for all of our community, including seniors,” he said. “People who had grown up in Lake Forest and lived there all their lives were being forced out of the community because they couldn’t afford it.”
High Interest in Program
Kaufman said Community Partners puts the word out as much as it can to let potential applicants know about the program. In Lake Forest, she posted fliers in local stores and gave presentations at Lake Forest College and Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. More than 25 people expressed interest in the first two homes, and Kaufman said some of them may be able to move into the three new homes the Lake Forest City Council approved May 7.
“There were a few people who weren’t in a position to move now, but we’re hoping they stay in touch with us,” she said. “They had divorces to finalize or houses to sell, but we’re hoping to help them out sometime soon.”
While neither of the first two houses went to seniors, Burn said he hopes to change that in the second batch.
“We’re trying to target houses that are appropriate for seniors,” he said. “When we’re doing it on a one-off basis like this, it’s harder since you’re at the discretion of the market.”