Aldermen reject city funding proposal for 2nd Ward affordable housing development


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Former 5th Ward Alderman Delores Holmes and Ald. Peter Braithwaite (2nd) speak outside council chambers. Aldermen rejected a proposal for city funding for a 2nd Ward affordable housing development at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Kristina Karisch, Web Editor

In a 5-3 vote at Monday’s City Council, aldermen struck down a proposal to help fund a three-story affordable housing development, citing concerns about access for Evanston residents.

The building, which is set to be built at 2215 Dempster St. in the 2nd Ward, would contain 16 units of affordable housing and be developed by Housing Opportunities for Women, a Chicago-based organization that helps individuals find affordable housing and aims to combat homelessness.

Aldermen were hesitant to commit because the building’s waitlist process for the proposed units would favor those on the general Regional Housing Initiative and State Referral Network waitlists, which may not prioritize Evanston residents. Only after HOW exhausted the two waitlists would it specifically seek Evanston residents.

“We have so few dollars for our affordable housing fund,” said Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd). “I’m really concerned that we’re spending half a million of our affordable housing fund without any real guarantee that this will be for Evanston.”

The city was asked to contribute $550,000 in gap financing to the project, or 10 percent of the total budget required for the development. According to a staff presentation, the cost per unit for the city would be $34,375.

As it stands, HOW is set to fund the roughly $5 million project through a number of different entities, including Evanston’s affordable housing fund.

Savannah Clement, the city’s housing policy and planning analyst, said residents are expected to live in the building for about five years. Many will be mothers with young children who will live in the units as their children grow up and reach school age, she added.

The building — which would be slated to open in 2019 — wouldn’t experience its first change of occupants until 2024, when more Evanston residents would be able to join the waitlist.

“We would work with the local nonprofits here in Evanston to tell them to refer their clients and people to this waitlist as well,” Clement said.

Still, many aldermen argued there would be no way to prioritize city residents.

Council members spoke generally last week about affordable housing, after residents pushed them to form a concrete plan to tackle the issue. A study by the Institute for Housing Studies at DePaul University, which was mentioned at the meeting, found a 9,927-household demand of affordable housing in Evanston and Skokie, but only 3,945 available units.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said the HOW development would do too little to distribute affordable housing across the city in a balanced manner.

“I don’t know if we’re meeting the most urgent need for affordable housing,” Rue Simmons said. “We can expand affordable housing beyond the 2nd and 5th Ward. We can move beyond being segregated and diverse. (This is) just not good enough.”

Residents also expressed concern at Monday’s meeting about the proposed location for the building, its size and general impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

Former 5th Ward alderman Delores Holmes said the structure would simply dominate the area, which mostly contains single-family homes.

“I’m very much in favor of affordable housing, and I think this is a wonderful project,” Holmes said. “However, I do think it is the wrong location, which I’ve been saying since the beginning.”

The proposal was sent back to the Planning and Development Committee for further review and discussion.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @kristinakarisch