Although recovery for home building has been looking up for a while—with new-home starts in 2013 up 18 percent over 2012 and new-home sales in January at their highest level since July 2008—coming
The Fee Police
Counties and local governments in the Chicago area were recently put on notice -- ensure that their residential development fees conform with state laws or face an imminent threat of litigation
Counties and local governments in the Chicago area were recently put on notice — ensure that their residential development fees conform with state laws or face an imminent threat of litigation.
The organization behind this effort is a one-man show working under the joint authority of three HBAs: Greater Chicago, Northern Illinois and Fox Valley. Since Jan. 1, Jack Seymour has been a full-time sleuth for the joint venture, the Attainable Housing Alliance. He tracks down details on everything from sewer connection charges to plan-review costs with an eye toward curbing governmental excesses or worse — uncovering evidence that portions of fees are reallocated to serve other purposes.
Using the Freedom of Information Act, Seymour sends an average of 10 letters per month requesting information about a local government’s fee structure. From there, he vets each response and if needed consults outside counsel to pursue legal action. By next month, he estimates, six lawsuits will be filed against local authorities with excessive or faulty fees. In some suits, AHA will also allege that adequate research was not done to ensure that fees are priced fairly.
By adding $8,000 to $10,000 per new home, fees “take a lot of people out of the market,” he says. “The fact is that impact fees are extraordinarily out of hand.”