Evanston residents protest Dempster Street housing project


Ahlaam Delange/The Daily Northwestern

Evanston resident Carolyn Murray stands with a sign protesting a housing project at 2215 Dempster St. Murray was among other Evanston residents protesting the new development early Wednesday morning.

Elizabeth Byrne, Summer Editor

Evanston residents gathered early Wednesday morning to protest a Dempster Street housing development funded by Housing Opportunities for Women.

The Chicago-based organization that helps individuals find affordable housing previously sought funding from City Council for the housing development in September and were denied. HOW moved forward with the project without funding from the city, and applied for federal funding through the Illinois Housing Development Authority.

Darlene Cannon, who organized the protest, said she wanted to speak out against the city and their missteps in allowing the Dempster Street housing development, including labeling the surrounding area as not a “predominantly minority” community.

“Evanston has a practice of guiding or directing these people to put these in majority-minority neighborhoods,” Cannon said. “They presented it as affordable housing initially and it was going to help Evanston residents, however it is not affordable housing, it’s transitional housing.”

Cannon added that the three-story building itself will stick out because there’s nothing of the same “height and density” in the residential area. She said this type of building is common in downtown Evanston, but not near the proposed building site.

She said that she was also upset at the lack of communication with the residents in the area and hopes that will change for future projects. She said other parts of Evanston receive communication and “meetings with residents,” but their area did not.

The three-story building, which is set to be built at 2215 Dempster St. in the 2nd Ward, will have 16 units of affordable housing. The proposed one-bedroom and two-bedroom units would be filled from Regional Housing Initiative and Statewide Referral Network waitlists, which may not prioritize Evanston residents. HOW said at a September City Council meeting that it would only specifically seek Evanston residents after both waitlists were considered.

The housing project is estimated to be completed by early 2019.

Evanston resident Angela Warlick-Thomas, who attended the protest, said she’s lived near the site of the proposed housing project for over 18 years and she’s worried about the property value of her home.
“I’m all for affordable housing, however we have to protect our community because there’s a grammar school a few blocks over and a high school, and we would just like to know who’s going to be here,” Warlick-Thomas said. “Why is it going up in our neighborhood?”

Evanston resident Carolyn Murray, a former candidate for 5th Ward Alderman, said she came to the protest because she didn’t like how the city handled the housing project on Dempster Street and “other projects in the city.”

Murray added that projects like the one on Dempster Street are “conveniently” coming up when Evanston is facing a multi-million dollar budget deficit for 2019. She said the city is turning to developers to “recoup the loss.”

“Instead of hearing the people that live in the area affected by these projects, they want to disregard all of the information, studies and concrete research that has been put together by the neighbors,” Murray said. “They disregard us every single time.”

Ahlaam Delange contributed reporting.

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