City: Black residents may be eligible for up to $25,000 in housing assistance as part of reparations fund

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Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th)

Jason Beeferman, Reporter

Some Black Evanston residents may soon be able to receive up to $25,000 in homeownership assistance as part of the Restorative Housing Reparations initiative within Evanston’s larger plan for reparations, the city said in a reparations subcommittee meeting Friday morning.

Assistance from the Restorative Housing Reparations initiative will be granted to Black residents who plan to use the money towards home ownership, home improvement and mortgage assistance, interim assistant city manager Kimberly Richardson said.

“This is one step towards repair that we are years ahead of any other municipalities,” Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said of the program. “This is a tremendous program that has been supported by the City of Evanston.”

The aim of the initiative within the larger reparations program will be to increase Black homeownership, “build intergenerational equity amongst Black Evanstonians,” and “encourage the revitalization, preservation and stabilization of Black owner-occupied homes in Evanston,” Richardson said.

However, not all Black Evanston residents will qualify for this specific assistance. Instead, residents must be a direct descendant of a Black resident who lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969. In addition, the resident’s descendant also must have “suffered discrimination in housing as a result of a city ordinance, policy or practice.”

Evanston resident Tina Paden said she disagreed with the implementation of the program, because she feels reparations money shouldn’t be restricted for specific purposes like housing. Instead, she said the funding should rather be given to Black residents directly.

“To me, you need the cash payment, and let people decide what they want to do,” Paden said. “Reparations is repairing harm, and this is discrimination on discrimination because you’re telling people what to do with their money.“

As planned since the start of the program, funds will largely come from tax revenue of Evanston cannabis sales.

Upon receiving cannabis tax revenue for the months of July and August, the fund currently contains a little under $100,000, Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) said. A portion of the funds came from individual contributions, which have totaled over $14,000 as of November. Rainey said within one year, the city anticipates it will have collected a total of $1 million in the fund.

The city will also establish a Reparations Eligibility Review Committee, which will be made up of local community members, to review residents’ applications and determine their eligibility for funding.

Though Rue Simmons said she is proud of the city’s work towards reparations, she noted that a lot of work still needs to be done.

“Everyone is frustrated,” Rue Simmons said. “This program is overdue. It’s not enough. I’m hearing all of that and I am completely agreeing, but I just have to say how proud I am that we are making these steps towards repair.”

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