Over 140 residents to apply for restorative housing program, eligibility survey says

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Daily file illustration by Emma Ruck

The Reparations subcommittee has met monthly since June 2019 to plan out the gradual distribution of $10 million in reparations to Black Evanstonians.

Ilana Arougheti, Development & Recruitment Editor

Of the nearly 200 residents who completed the city’s reparations eligibility survey, 144 indicated they would be interested in applying for Evanston’s restorative housing program, CMO Management Analyst Tasheik Kerr said at a Thursday virtual reparations subcommittee meeting.

The $400,000 program — the first facet of the city’s larger reparations plan — is set to be distributed in payments up to $25,000. Eligible residents can spend funds they receive from the program toward home ownership, home improvement and mortgage assistance.

The highest survey response rate came from the 5th Ward, followed by former residents and then the 2nd Ward. While 407 residents completed parts of the survey, only the 198 who answered every question were counted in the subcommittee’s review.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said the response distribution aligned with the committee’s expectations. She also said the committee found respondents’ rates of prior home ownership — about 44 percent — equally unsurprising.

Some attendees, including Evanston resident Rose Cannon, said they wanted a survey to measure residents’ interest in reparations in the form of cash payments instead of a home ownership program.

“At this point, I am moving away from the housing allotment,” Cannon said. “I would want the cash payout, because I’m not going to go back into this mortgage thing with these bankers that have historically wounded and injured my people over and over.”

Simmons said the survey’s focus on housing-based assistance was developed from dialogues between the reparations subcommittee and community members when meetings began in 2019.

“What I don’t want to happen is that we don’t advance a policy that allows us to expand homeownership in the Black community, before there truly is no naturally occurring, affordable housing left,” Simmons said.

The subcommittee also reviewed the restorative housing program eligibility guidelines, which they plan to present at an upcoming meeting. Acting Assistant City Manager Kimberly Richardson said qualifying residents will need to prove they were either impacted by discriminatory housing policies between 1919 and 1969, descend from someone who was impacted, or have experienced a specific act of housing discrimination after 1969.

Documenting each type of proof, Richardson said, comes with unique challenges. For example, many married couples’ legal documents from the period of 1919 to 1969 don’t include the wife’s last name, so it can be difficult for women to prove their home ownership years down the line.

“With a finite dollar amount, we want to make sure that we have a transparent process,” Richardson said. “So people understand how those who receive funding are selected.”

Landlord Tina Paden said she was concerned giving precedence to homeowners might divert funds away from senior citizens without the means to buy property. Landlord Carlis Sutton said the $25,000 potential payment provides inadequate support when compared with the $300,000 price tag on a typical Evanston home.

The city plans to eventually distribute a total of $10 million in reparations.The Reparations Stakeholders Authority of Evanston has also established an Evanston Reparations Community Fund, which is housed at the Evanston Community Foundation.

The survey’s deadline has been extended until March 3 to ensure it captures a more comprehensive picture of Evanston’s Black community and its needs, Rue Simmons said.

She hopes the committee’s partner businesses, especially banks, will consider the survey results when determining how best to support community members aspiring to home ownership.

“Sustaining homeownership, passing down family-owned homes, is the most likely path to building wealth for any family, no matter their race,” Rue Simmons said. “There’s a lot of excitement and enthusiasm and hope around reparations, and we’re all being educated here together as a city.”

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