Northwestern student pens housing report for Evanston

Edward Cox, Assistant Summer Editor

A Northwestern student authored a report this summer on how Evanston is using a federal grant to redevelop foreclosed homes in the city’s poorest areas.

As an intern this spring for Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, rising Weinberg senior William McLaughlin wrote the city’s update on the Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2, which was part of the federal stimulus package in 2009 and poured more than $18 million into rehabilitating insolvent homes in west and south Evanston.

The report has been sent to Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), a supporter of NSP2, Tisdahl said. Durbin had requested an update on home redevelopment in Evanston.

McLaughlin said he volunteered to work for Tisdahl at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a student startup, which he attended in February as the president of the NU Institute for Student Business Education.

“Working with William was wonderful, and he was very capable of making decisions on his own,” Tisdahl said. “I think the findings show NSP2 is successful. Not only did many minorities, Evanston residents … get jobs, but they did great work.”

The city used the grant to purchase properties in financially strapped neighborhoods and redevelop the homes for low-income residents. Almost $2 million in NSP2 funds were used to help transform a vacant industrial lot into a 32-unit, mixed-income community, Emerson Square, which City Council approved in 2011.

Of the 91 properties Evanston has acquired so far for redevelopment, 23 have been sold and 27 rented, according to the city.

McLaughlin said he titled the report “It Takes a City” because of the extensive collaboration involved in drafting the paper. A workday could include filing requests through the city clerk’s office or touring a neighborhood with a building inspector, he said. While compiling crime statistics in coordination with police Chief Richard Eddington, McLaughlin said he found crime dropped from its 2010 peaks in rehabilitated areas.

Although McLaughlin admitted he once lived in the “Northwestern bubble”  and was ignorant of the parts Evanston west of Ridge Avenue before writing the report, he has since grown his knowledge by traveling to Springfield with city staff and NU faculty.

“(Now) I am the lead navigator when I drive around the city,” McLaughlin said. “I appreciate not only the streets and avenues but also the people that give Evanston its character.”

McLaughlin said he plans to delve into international business and may move on to the United States Foreign Service, where he hopes to work with countries such as France, China and Turkey. Tisdahl said if the city decides to draft another update on NSP2 in a couple of months, she would welcome McLaughlin to write it.

McLaughlin said he is open to continuing his work with the city.

“I didn’t do a single menial task for the mayor,” McLaughlin said. “We’re fortunate to live in a well-run city. Things work in Evanston.”

Assistant summer editor Edward Cox can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated McLaughlin’s student status. He is a rising Weinberg senior. The Daily regrets the error.