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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Equity and Empowerment Commission recommends additional support for Wesley residents

Joshua Sukoff/The Daily Northwestern
The Equity and Empowerment Commission met Thursday night to discuss revising a letter to City Council regarding apartments at 2014, 2018 and 2024 Wesley Ave.

After City officials gave tenants living at 2014, 2018 and 2024 Wesley Ave. a mid-May deadline to vacate their homes, commissioners on the Equity and Empowerment Commission raised concerns about what communication breakdowns contributed to the crisis at their Thursday meeting.

More than two dozen low-income Evanston residents living at the apartment complexes must move out by May 13, city officials said at an April 9 meeting. The announcement followed the city’s February determination that the buildings were too dangerous to reside in because of deterioration in its stairs and platforms.

At Thursday’s meeting, commissioners said the city hasn’t provided clear, long-term solutions to support the Wesley residents. The city has committed to providing the displaced residents with one year of rental coverage, with the following year dependent on showing proof that their income has not increased.

“These are 24 affordable units,” said Darlene Cannon, who chairs the commission. “These are … elderly Black people that are being displaced. We don’t have any place for them to go in Evanston.”

The commission previously drafted a letter asking City Council to address further concerns about the Wesley apartments. On Thursday, commissioners revised the letter to include additional recommendations, such as requiring more frequent building inspections.

Commissioner Molly Malone said the letter should also focus on ways to alleviate any trauma and anxiety induced by the vacate order the Wesley residents received from City Manager Luke Stowe.

“I think anytime someone’s being turned out of their home, that’s a traumatic event,” Commissioner Shana Sexton said. 

The commission unanimously voted to include additional recommendations for City Council on better assisting the displaced residents and presenting the revised draft at its next meeting.

“They need to feel at ease,” Cannon said. “This is a big, unexpected event that’s happening in their lives … and they don’t know what the future holds for them.”

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) said the city’s involvement in the situation is “purely regulatory,” with inspections every five years because the apartments are privately owned.

There need to be more frequent inspections to address potential infrastructure issues proactively, but possible changes in inspection schedules are “a balancing act,” he said.

“If we have to increase property taxes or the cost of either developing or maintaining housing, it just adds to our affordability issues,” Reid said.

The commission’s next meeting will be held May 16 — three days after the resident move-out deadline.

Commissioners said they plan to continue discussing solutions for the displaced residents and preventing similar situations in the future.

“Look at what happened here,” Sexton said. “Make sure that it’s not going to happen again in this way.”

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