Evanston to join national network for small city housing development


Daily file illustration by Fiona Wang

A row of houses. Evanston will join the 2022 Peer Cities Network to brainstorm and troubleshoot housing development policy alongside other mid-sized cities.

Lily Carey, Assistant City Editor

Evanston will join the second annual cohort of the Housing Solutions Lab’s Peer Cities Network, a nationwide initiative to support small and midsize cities in housing development, the city announced Thursday.

As one of nine cities selected for this year’s network, Evanston will work with the network’s team to develop housing policy focused on racial and health equity. The network focuses on non-coastal cities and cities with under 500,000 residents.

“Our goal is to meet cities where they’re at, and offer a range of supports that can be customized to meet their unique housing needs,” Martha Galvez, executive director of the Housing Solutions Lab, said in a Thursday news release from the city.

In recent months, Evanston has focused on housing initiatives from increased high-rise development to a Restorative Housing Program as part of the initial wave of its reparations program – the first of its kind in the nation. The city’s Affordable Housing Fund, which sits at approximately $2.5 million for 2022, helps provide for housing developments supporting low- and middle-income residents.

In the aftermath of a year-long Illinois rent freeze, the city has also struggled to support unhoused residents amid debates over panhandling policy. It has debated the merits of accessory dwelling units, as well as their potential to either enable absentee landlord practices or support affordable housing efforts.

The Peer Cities Network aims to help cities develop evidence-based local housing policies using case studies and local data collected by researchers from the Housing Solutions Lab. The lab receives funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest health-focused philanthropic organizations.

As a member of the Peer Cities Network, Evanston will have access to local data sets and will become part of a national network of similar cities with which to discuss and compare policy. In addition to affordable housing efforts, coordinators will primarily focus on using the network to increase home ownership by first-time buyers. 

“I am tremendously grateful to the Housing Solutions Lab,” Mayor Daniel Biss said in the release. “This invaluable partnership will help city and community partners develop innovative, evidence-based housing policies and goals to advance health and equity in Evanston.”

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Twitter: @lilylcarey

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