Council approves partnership with ETHS housing education program


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Evanston housing and grants administrator Sarah Flax speaks at a Monday council meeting. Aldermen approved an agreement with Evanston Township High School to formalize a housing education partnership.

Samantha Handler, Assistant City Editor

Aldermen approved Monday an agreement with Evanston Township High School to formalize a partnership between the city and a housing education program.

The program — Geometry in Construction — is one of the most popular classes at ETHS, according to city documents, with 99 students registered this year. The documents state that the class is in its fifth year and has developed five affordable homes, addressing an “important need for ownership housing” for moderate- and middle-income families.

Monday’s agreement solidified an already existing partnership between the city and ETHS in which the city provides the lots for the houses that the ETHS program plans.

“I’m glad that this has come forward,” Mayor Steve Hagerty said. “We actually need something written on paper, so I think this is a smart idea.”

The program was inspired by the “Geometry in Construction” class at Loveland High School in Colorado. In 2005, three Loveland teachers discussed ways to receive a technology funding grant and came up with a curriculum that combined geometry and construction.

According to the course website, the “true beauty” of the program is the combination of the two curricula, in which students can see the relevance of math.

“For the first time, all students will be able to see the relevance through world models of skills being used,” the website says. “They not only see this in the classroom but also recognize the knowledge attained in class outside by being able to recognize topics related to their own homes and lives.”

For the last five years, the city has provided a lot for the program’s houses, Evanston housing and grants administrator Sarah Flax said. Flax and deputy city attorney Michelle Masoncup have been working on creating a pipeline of properties for the class and have identified four so far, Flax said.

The city provided four of the lots in the past five years, acquiring three from foreclosures. The original homes were demolished because of their “severely deteriorated” condition that was deemed unrepairable, and the site for this year was purchased by the city using the Affordable Housing Fund.

All but the first house the class built — at 1941 Jackson Ave. in 2014 — have been two-story homes. Their most recent project — 2005 Grey Ave. — is under construction. The first three homes have been sold, and an ETHS employee has expressed interest in purchasing the fourth home, which is slated to be completed by the summer.

ETHS and city employees have priority in purchasing the homes, and Community Partners for Affordable Housing manages the sales.

In the future, Flax said, the program and the city may build accessory dwelling units and other types of affordable housing units on the properties. She added that the homeownership program and coursework overall have been “very successful.”

“One of the things that we were asked to do was create an intergovernmental agreement between the city and Evanston Township High School to memorialize the rules and responsibilities,” Flax said, “just keep that program moving forward.”

Twitter: @sn_handler