Evanston to participate in NYU Furman Center Housing Solutions Lab Network


Illustration by Gemma DeCetra

The lab will help Evanston access timely policy resources, local housing data, technical assistance, research support and a network of other cities attempting to tackle similar issues.

Avani Kalra, Audience Engagement Editor

Evanston will join the NYU Furman Center Housing Solutions Lab, which aims to help small and midsize cities develop innovative and equitable housing solutions, the city announced last month.  

The lab will help the city access timely policy resources, local housing data, technical assistance, research support and a network of other cities attempting to tackle similar issues. Mayor Daniel Biss said he is excited about the opportunities available through the Housing Solutions Lab. 

“Evanston has a lot of work to do when it comes to affordable housing,” Biss told The Daily in an email. “The Housing Solutions Lab Network will expose us both to expert input from leaders in the field and to other communities facing similar challenges and experimenting with cutting edge ideas.”

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th), who chairs the Housing and Community Development Committee, said the partnership will provide a valuable learning opportunity. 

The city will participate in its first conference call with the network Thursday, Revelle said. 

“Some of those other communities have other initiatives that they’ve launched, and we can exchange ideas about things that are working and brainstorm about the challenges we are all facing,” Revelle said.

Evanston’s cohort includes eight other cities, including Portland, Maine; Des Moines, Iowa and San Marcos, Texas.

Jessica Wunsch, peer network cities manager at the Furman Center, said she will facilitate the exchanges between cities participating in the network. She said collaboration is one of the most important parts of the project. 

The cohort of cities will meet each month for a 90-minute phone call to discuss their respective housing initiatives and difficulties. The network also develops an internal curriculum for each city based on identified priorities including eviction, racial equity and homeless assistance. To address these housing needs, the network brings in qualified experts. 

Wunsch said the lab also helps cities take a data-driven approach to identifying and enacting housing solutions. This is done by connecting cities with researchers who can help leaders decipher and address housing data.

Data work often helps shed light on existing racial and ethnic disparities, Wunsch said. 

Wunsch said the center encourages cities to focus on community engagement when developing affordable housing plans.

The program will help cities decide who they include at the table when drafting housing policy to make processes inclusive and equitable to stakeholders. 

“A really huge piece of the work is helping cities think through how to engage the community and who’s at the table in these conversations and policy discussions,” she said. “They need to know how they can make it a more inclusive process to help achieve greater equity in outcomes.”

This month, the network will host its first event examining legal frameworks that address racial disparities in housing. Wunsch said she expects the opportunity to be particularly beneficial for Evanston as the city continues to develop race-conscious housing policies. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @avanidkalra

Related Stories: 

Evanston to join national network for small city housing development

Reparations Committee talks next steps for Restorative Housing Program

Planning and Development Housing Subcommittee debates rental licensing