City staff provides update on affordable housing in Evanston, plans going forward


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) speaks at a City Council meeting. Revelle suggested at a Monday meeting that the city create a steering committee to advise on matters regarding affordable housing.

Kristina Karisch, Summer Web Editor

Members of the Evanston City Council on Monday were presented with an update to the city’s effort to expand and reform affordable housing.

The work plan update, presented by Housing and Grants Administrator Sarah Flax, outlined changes the city is proposing for its Inclusionary Housing Ordinance and the optional fee-in-lieu which developers may elect to pay instead of providing a number of affordable units in their properties.

“Affordable housing” has historically been defined by the city as housing that can be paid for if 30 percent of income is devoted to rent, said Savannah Clement, a housing policy and planning analyst for the city in a 2017 presentation.

Under the new affordable housing plan, Flax said the city is looking to redefine the criteria for low-, moderate- and middle-income housing and make affordable housing more accessible across Evanston.

“If we can get the private market to help pick up the missing middle in that way, that could really help,” Flax said.

One way the city is looking to do this is by reforming its fee-in-lieu policies. When developers plan new projects, they must either provide a set number of units at affordable rates or pay the city a roughly equivalent fee.

The revised fee-in-lieu practices would give bonuses to developers who designate 5 percent and 10 percent of their units as affordable, Flax said. Additionally, developers will now be bound to guaranteeing those units remain affordable for a 30-year period.

Flax said that going forward, the city is looking to renew funding for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance for 10 homeless families with children in Evanston schools as well as revise the 2018 fund allocations for the city’s Emergency Solutions Grant.

She added that Evanston’s Housing and Homelessness Commission will be integral to informing community members of changes and availability of affordable housing across the city.

“A major part of their responsibility will be with the community outreach and helping us organize that,” Flax said. “(They’ll help in) making sure we get to our broad community and not just stakeholders, and developers and property owners but the people who really need the affordable housing.”

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) suggested at Monday’s meeting that the city create a steering committee to move this process forward, which was unanimously approved by aldermen.

Mayor Steve Hagerty agreed with Revelle’s plan, and suggested there be one or two aldermen on the committee.

Revelle said that the steering committee would work in tandem with city staff and the Housing and Homelessness Commission to reach out into the city and inform residents.

“Community buy-in is really important to an effective plan and effective implementation,” Revelle said.

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Twitter: @kristinakarisch