Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Reparations committee determines order for reparations distribution

Edward Simon Cruz/The Daily Northwestern
Dino Robinson Jr. gave a presentation on the history of housing discrimination during the Reparations Committee meeting on Thursday.

The Evanston Reparations Committee determined the order in which direct descendants of residents affected by housing discrimination will receive reparations from the city at a meeting at Evanston Township High School Thursday. 

In March 2021, the city passed the Restorative Housing Program to fund home ownership, home improvement and mortgage assistance. Recipients can now choose to receive vouchers or cash payments. 

Recipients who are direct descendants of Black residents who lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 are eligible to receive the payments discussed at Thursday’s meeting. According to Committee Chair Robin Rue Simmons, 454 direct descendants have been verified as eligible for those payments. 

Residents classified as Ancestors — who lived in Evanston as adults between 1919 and 1969 — privately met with committee staff members and selected the benefits they wished to receive under the program. 

Each direct descendant received a unique identification number for the meeting, where Information Technology Manager Jim Milano sorted those numbers in a random order to determine the sequence in which recipients would receive reparations funds. 

Recipients will be able to access their order number online by Friday and via 311 by Tuesday, according to Tasheik Kerr, assistant to the city manager. 

The city has enough funding to support payments for the first 80 residents in the sequence and hope to begin disbursing payments in March, Simmons said. 

Before receiving their payments, recipients will undergo a mandatory intake process with optional educational sessions about money opportunities, according to Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd). 

“With wealth should come knowledge, so I want to make sure that we provide you some learning and educational tools to use this money wisely,” Harris said. 

Both the federal and state governments have deemed payments received through the Restorative Housing Program tax-exempt, according to Interim Corporation Counsel Alexandra B. Ruggie. 

Dino Robinson Jr., founder of the Shorefront Legacy Center, gave a presentation outlining the history of housing discrimination in Evanston, which occurred through zoning laws that promoted redlining at Thursday’s meeting. 

Robinson named both past and present Black Evanston residents who have challenged discrimination through advocacy. 

“We’re able to honor what our ancestors have done, and you sitting here in this audience are living proof of what your ancestors, your family, your relatives have done in this community,” Robinson said. 

Evanston has announced plans to allocate $10 million in revenue from its cannabis sales tax and an additional $10 million from its real estate transfer tax to support its Reparations Fund. 

The city transferred $3 million in revenue from the real estate transfer tax to the Reparations Fund in 2023 and is set to transfer an additional $1 million in 2024. The city has not shared the amount of money generated from the cannabis sales tax, since it currently has fewer than five cannabis dispensaries. 

Evanston resident Suanne Rayner said she lives in a house she bought with her mother and sister. She hopes to use her payment to repair her house and hopes the Restorative Housing Program sets a positive example for other cities, even though she does not see it as a comprehensive solution. 

“This is a drop in the bucket,” Rayner said. “It’s a start toward what could be possible.” 

Clarification: This article has been updated to more accurately reflect Ald. Krissie Harris’ statement about the educational sessions direct descendants can attend. 

Email: [email protected]

X: @edwardsimoncruz

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