Grant program focuses on affordable housing

Scott Gordon

The city will begin accepting applications for Community Development Block Grant money for the 2006-07 fiscal year on Monday.

Money from the grants is distributed by the city to nonprofit groups, city departments and other organizations that build affordable housing and provide jobs.

The grant application deadline is Sept. 16. Evanston received about $2.1 million in federal CDBG money last year and expects to get the same this year, said Sally Lufkin, Evanston’s CDBG administrator. Evanston’s CDBG program emphasizes building affordable housing in central, south and west Evanston.

Evanston’s Housing and Community Development Act Committee will begin reviewing applications in October. Evanston City Council and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development must then approve the committee’s plan.

A handbook for CDBG applicants will be posted Monday at cityofevanston.org.

The committee met Tuesday night to hear from organizations that plan to apply for grants.

Richard Koenig, executive director of Houing Opportunity Development Corporation, told the committee a lot on the 1800 block of Dodge Avenue had been donated to the corporation. He said he wants to build a single-family house on the lot and use CDBG money to keep its price low.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), chair of the committee, said more businesses should donate supplies and labor to build affordable housing in Evanston. She recalled that Evanston Police Department’s Howard Street office, 633 Howard St., was built almost entirely with donated supplies and volunteer labor.

“It’s just crazy that we don’t have more of that in Evanston,” she said.

Rainey also said she wants to hold meetings to encourage more neighborhood groups to apply for the grants. “They have no idea what these CDBG monies can be used for,” she said.

Betty Ester, president of Citizens’ Lighthouse Community Land Trust, said more residents should know about small city grants they can apply for to pay for home repairs.

Rainey agreed. “Every piece of affordable housing that deteriorates is going to be bought up, renovated and sold,” she said.

Ester also said Citizens’ Lighthouse plans to apply for nonprofit status and start buying land for affordable-housing projects.

Reach Scott Gordon at [email protected].