Evanston residents share affordability visions at Evanston Development Cooperative forum


Sneha Dey/Daily Senior Staffer

Evanston residents at an affordable housing forum hosted by the Evanston Development Cooperative.

Sneha Dey, Development and Recruitment Editor

Evanston resident Trish Stieglitz can afford to live in Evanston, but it becomes “harder and harder every year,” she said during an affordable housing forum Thursday evening.

Stieglitz was one of about 25 residents who attended the meeting at Backlot Coffee, located at 2006 Central St. The forum was hosted by the Evanston Development Cooperative. The co-op, which was founded last year, works with homeowners to build developments, specifically coach houses and other accessory dwelling units.

When Stieglitz first built a coach house on her property, she said the city had her sign a letter prohibiting rentals to non-family members.

The city code was amended in April 2018, allowing property owners to rent out coach houses to non-family members. The amendment was part of an initiative to increase affordable housing in Evanston.

Stieglitz emphasized the need to continue affordability efforts. With taxes rising, Stieglitz said her kids won’t be able to live in the city.

Residents at the meeting were divided into groups of four to consider questions on affordability. “What do you think is the biggest issue facing our community?” and “What’s the purpose of housing in our community?” were some of the questions posed.

Evanston resident Gordon Anderson said access to resources, passionate citizens and diversity draw people in, but the taxes and cost of living are driving people out. Anderson stressed that those who work in the community cannot afford to live there.

“For me, it always comes back to this. What type of housing do residents need in this community, what type of residences are residents okay with and where is this intersection…and how can we build housing…that works for all residents?,” said Communication senior Robinson Markus, EDC co-founder and former Daily staffer.

Markus said his group considered Evanston’s complicated history with race. He pointed to structural racism and the city’s landmark efforts to desegregate schools.

He said he recognizes the efforts of the city government and the public sector, but added that “there’s still so much work to do.” As a development cooperative with residents on the team, Markus said the community gets to play a bigger role in expanding affordability.

“I really do believe that by bringing together the collective wisdom of the community… that’s when we can really begin to think about looking long term, but also acting now,” Markus said.

He said the co-op plans to hold similar forums in other parts of the city.

John Kim, the owner of Backlot and a 23-year Evanston resident, said he appreciates the co-op’s efforts to develop housing for all income levels. People of higher income levels will always exist, Kim said, but catering to those people threatens the character of this city.

“To see Evanston thrive is to see Evanston spread out housing in a way that makes sense,” Kim said. “If we keep building high rises or huge 4000-square-foot houses, Evanston will cease to be this place.”

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