City Council aims to increase the number of affordable homes in Evanston


Daily file photo by Drew Gerber

Sarah Flax, Evanston's housing and grants administrator, fields questions as working groups discuss proposed amendments to the city's inclusionary housing ordinance. After years of discussion in the Planning and Development Committee, the amendment finally moved to City Council on Monday night.

Robin Opsahl, Reporter

A new rule to increase the number of affordable housing units in Evanston was introduced to City Council on Monday after long deliberations in a city committee.

The Planning and Development Committee recommended council make developers increase the number of affordable housing units available to low-income residents. Aldermen will discussed the proposed rule further at future meetings.

The amendment would expand Evanston’s inclusionary housing ordinance to cover rental projects and developments with fewer than 25 units, as well as increase incentives for developers and landlords to create and renovate affordable housing options in Evanston, according to a presentation shown at the committee meeting Monday. The presentation also outlined different requirements and greater benefits for expanding housing near CTA and Metra stations.

Mark Muenzer, the city’s director of community development, told The Daily officials are estimating the creation of more than 1,000 new affordable housing units in the next five years under this plan.

“This is a long time coming,” Ald. Mark Tendam (6th) said. “It is simply time to do this.”

Homelessness and lack of affordable housing options in Evanston has been a problem for years, said Joe Flint, a south Evanston resident, on Monday during the Council meeting. He said he wanted to see more affordable housing options for young adults in the city.

“I want the city to be a place where my two daughters want to live here regardless of what they make,” Flint said. “What I’ve seen is the pendulum swing to the side of the developers in the city.”

Tendam said lack of compliance from the developers would be a potential barrier to the ordinance’s success while trying to create more affordable space. Some aldermen expressed concern about the amendment’s effectiveness, but Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said the amendment is still addressing an important issue in the community.

“It’s pretty clear that the inclusive housing ordinance can help but really can’t solve our affordable housing challenges,” Grover said. “But even if it only creates 150 units in the next five years, that’s 150 units we wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

However, some aldermen are concerned that the changes to the ordinance are more focused on helping lower-middle income residents than Evanston’s low-income residents. Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said the plan would affect people making between $45,000 and $60,000 a year, not people living on minimum wage or the city’s general assistance program.

“There’s a whole boatload of people who aren’t going to be affected in any way, shape or form by this,” Rainey said.

Discussion about the amendment needs to continue in future meetings, but the proposal is a good first step, Ald. Dolores Holmes (5th) said.

“We have talked about this for so long and we have not done anything,” Holmes said. “I don’t think this is going to be hurtful but more helpful.”

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