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Affordable housing measures advance

Evanston aldermen reportedly will take up an inclusionary housing ordinance Monday after months of delay.

Housing Commission members meeting tonight said they were reasonably confident the measure has the support of at least four aldermen, but said they aren’t sure whether it will get the five votes needed to pass.

The commissioners toiled for years to develop the inclusionary housing plan. It would require developers of new housing in the city to sell some units at a subsidized price, or contribute to a city affordable housing fund.

Although 26 percent of Evanston housing units qualify as affordable under state standards — more than twice the affordability target in the state legislation — advocates argue that recent increases in housing prices make actions to increase the supply of affordable housing desirable.

They argue the measure would make it easier for young professionals — especially school teachers and other public employees — to live where they work.

Opponents say the subsidies will only increase housing costs for buyers of unsubsidized units, and that since most new construction in Evanston consists of condos — already the more affordable segment of the local housing market — the inclusionary efforts will hurt overall affordability.

They also argue that the increased costs to developers may further depress an already softening new construction market in town, which in turn would create other budget problems for a city heavily dependent on the increased tax base new housing provides to fund growing city expenses.

The Housing Commission members Thursday also voted to support a referendum the aldermen have placed on the November ballot that would increase the city’s real estate transfer tax by 20 percent, to $6 per $1,000 of selling price, to fund affordable housing programs.

While commissioners expressed some disappointment that aldermen had not consulted them before authorizing the referendum, and some apprehension about its prospects, they said they hope both the inclusionary housing ordinance and the referendum do pass.

They vowed to work with the League of Women Voters and other groups on the issue and try to convince voters to approve the tax hike.

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