City Council approves demolition of buildings to be redeveloped as affordable housing

Rishika Dugyala, Assistant City Editor

City Council approved a plan Monday to transfer funds to a nonprofit organization that will then demolish 13 abandoned buildings in the west and south sides of Evanston, before redeveloping them as affordable housing.

Under the Blight Reduction Program, the Illinois Housing Development Authority awarded the city $455,000 for the acquisition, demolition and greening of certain properties, allotting $35,000 per property, according to a council memorandum.

After the nonprofit organization Community Partners for Affordable Housing completes the demolition, there will be a three-year retention period so IHDA can record a forgivable loan on each of the estates, which provides them with funds that do not need to be completely repaid if they meet the conditions of the program, before the redevelopment begins, according to the memorandum.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th) said although CPAH will be the main organization working to redevelop the properties — located specifically in Evanston’s 2nd, 5th and 8th wards — other community partners have the opportunity to get involved.

One potential partner includes Evanston Township High School’s Geometry in Construction program, in which students build affordable homes and work with nonprofits to sell them to low-income families, Holmes said.

“We’re looking for people who make under $50,000 a year to be able to become homeowners as well, so that’s why I’m pushing the high school program,” Holmes said.

Nora Holden-Corbett, the city’s grants and compliance specialist, said the program requires demolition work to be completed by December 31, 2017. The ETHS program does not currently work within the necessary time frame, producing only one new home a year.

Holden-Corbett also said the application submitted in 2015 stated that 13 properties would be demolished. Since then, one has already been torn down using funds from the Community Development Block Grant program. Now more properties can be substituted into the Blight Reduction Program’s grant, and the team will be working quickly to demolish as many buildings as possible before the deadline, Holden-Corbett said.

She added that the team is by no means committed to partnering with ETHS or using that program’s homes for every property.

“We could also look into the options of using home funds or affordable housing funds,” Holden-Corbett said. “In addition, while most of these cases would be for single-family affordable housing, we may be just keeping (the properties) as lots and not rebuilding.”

The council also approved an authorization for the city manager to increase the full year 2016 budget for the Affordable Housing Fund by $455,000 in accordance with the city’s now approved participation in the Blight Reduction Program.

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