Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Housing Plan Ready For City’s Final Approval

By Megan CrepeauThe Daily Northwestern

Evanston’s long-debated inclusionary housing ordinance is well on its way to final approval, city officials said.

Aldermen made changes at Monday’s City Council meeting, focusing the ordinance on funding for families with incomes lower than the Chicago-area median.

James Wolinski, the city’s director of community development, said the council likely will pass the ordinance at their May 29 meeting after considering minor revisions from city staff.

The ordinance stipulates that developers can either designate 10 percent of a project’s units as on-site affordable housing or pay $40,000 to the city’s Affordable Housing Fund for each affordable unit not built.

City staff had recommended that the inclusionary housing ordinance include families with incomes of at least 120 percent less of the median, instead of the previous limit of 100 percent. Wolinski said the expansion would benefit some teachers, police officers and other local workers.

“There is a population of employees between 100 and 120 percent that we could possibly help,” he said.

Aldermen rejected the staff’s recommendation, however, saying that the fund should focus on even poorer residents.

“Those who are able to make $84,000 for a family of four don’t really need our assistance at the level we’re talking about,” Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) said. “We want to assist those who are borderline. I would be willing to compromise … to help those folks.”

Aldermen ultimately decided to dedicate 60 percent of the Affordable Housing Fund to households earning less than 80 percent of the area’s median income. The rest would go to families making 80 to 100 percent of the median.

“I’m sure that households who make (100 to 120 percent) will still have to work hard to buy a home. They may have to work hard, they may have to wait, but … one would hope that they have a sufficient asset base,” said Ald. Edmund Moran (6th). “Somehow, someway, I think that our bias should be towards people other than those people who will ultimately make it.”

Wolinski said he respects the council’s decision to reject the staff’s recommendation, saying it is the council’s “prerogative.”

“I think this is our first stab at it,” he said, adding that the council can make adjustments as needed.

If the council decides to give its final approval, Wolinski and his staff will deliver semi-annual reports to the council detailing how many families at each income level have requested funding.

Wolinski said he hopes the data will help paint a clearer picture of who needs affordable housing in Evanston.

The council has been debating the inclusionary housing measure for years. The first version of the ordinance, which was presented in November 2004, passed nearly two years later. But it was rejected by city legal staff who said it lacked enough options for developers to meet affordable housing requirements.

An amended version passed in January but was vetoed by Mayor Lorraine Morton, who said it would discourage development. The current ordinance received preliminary approval on March 12, and the council has been discussing details ever since.

Now, city staff will look over the completed ordinance and recommend final revisions.

“I do support, and I understand what we’re trying to do, which is provide housing for a range of people and continue to have a diverse city,” said Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) at Monday’s meeting.

Reach Megan Crepeau at [email protected].

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Housing Plan Ready For City’s Final Approval