City earmarks federal funds for west Evanston affordable housing

Edward Cox, Assistant City Editor

The Evanston City Council voted Tuesday to approve using federal funds to construct two affordable rental units in the 2nd Ward.

The nonprofit Community Partners for Affordable Housing acquired $277,685 in federal HOME funds, which will be spent purchasing and remodeling two housing units in areas hit hard by foreclosures, executive director Rob Anthony said.

The Highland Park-based group also applied for a separate grant from the Illinois attorney general’s office that could bring eight more affordable rental units to the ward. The grant will likely be approved by the end of June, Anthony said.

“It helps in maintaining the diversity of town,” Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) said. “In addition to that, we will target houses or units that are foreclosed or abandoned.”

The two units for which the group netted federal money could be combined in one building or constructed in separate buildings. They will be rented out to residents who earn up to 60 percent of the area median income, or an annual income of $44,160, said Sarah Flax, the city’s grants administrator.

Braithwaite said the federal HOME funds will bring new life to boarded-up properties that have served as a “negative magnet” in communities.

The HOME money is separate from an $18 million fund the city received from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which was used to rehabilitate properties in the 5th and 8th wards and turn them into affordable housing projects.

Community Partners for Affordable Housing has partnered with Lake Forest, Highland Park and Evanston to provide cheap housing, Anthony said.

Flax said the far west part of the 2nd Ward has been hit hard by foreclosures.

From 2011 to 2012, the Illinois Foreclosure Listing Service recorded 463 pre-foreclosures filed in Evanston, and 193 bank-owned properties in the city were marked with auction dates, Flax said. Because of the large number of foreclosures, many Evanston residents have demanded more affordable rent, Anthony said.

“So many people lost their homes to foreclosure and need a place to stay,” Anthony said.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), who supported approving the funds, said she believes building low-income rental units will help meet demand in various parts of the community.

“We need affordable housing, but we need it not to be concentrated in one or two wards,” Holmes said.