A three-story, 16-unit affordable housing development is being planned for the northeast corner of Dempster Street and Pitner Avenue in Evanston.

The non-profit Housing Opportunities for Women organization has applied for funding from the Illinois Housing Development Authority to build the project.

The roughly 20,000 square foot site now includes a single family home at 1305 Pitner and a vacant lot facing Dempster Street.

Sarah Flax, of the city’s Community Development Department, says the project can be built as of right under the city’s zoning code. The parcels are zoned R5, which permits three-story apartment buildings.

Flax says the goal of the development is to provide stable housing for mothers with children who may only earn 30 percent to 50 percent of area median income.

She said the plan meets the goals of the city’s consolidated plan prepared for the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and that the city may consider providing gap funding to help make the project a success.

People at extremely low income levels tend to be the most housing-cost burdened, Flax said, and Evanston has as many as 400 children who are either homeless or in an unstable housing situation.

Among its other benefits, Flax said, the project can help reduce the troubles that children who don’t have stable housing tend to have in school.

Housing Opportunities for Women has its headquarters on Howard Street in Chicago. Its chief executive officer, Britt Shawver, is an Evanston resident.

A community meeting to discuss the project is tentatively scheduled for the evening of April 25 at the Erie Family Health Center at 1285 Hartrey Ave.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Low income housing

    So the Dempster gateway will now be complete w low income housing for moms and kids who can use all the crumby businesses dumped at Dempster and  Dodge…currency exchange, McDonald, PayDay Loan store, the FOR profit Goodwill  and Burger King. Who is going to be responsible for monitoring that the dads of these children do not take up residence too? Concerned about a gang element becoming a presence on Dempster. Fine with me to have housing near transport, hope there will be consideration of our neighborhood and who is passing through. Will there be Park or safe play area off Dempster for the children? Not sure that this would fly on Central Street. Seems insane to take a single family home and turn it into housing for 15 families of 50 to 60 people. Turn the house into transitional housing, offer training in parenting, job core opportunity, GED/college, vocational training, childcare onssight and surround these moms w support to be and stay independent . Check out Helping Hands for Single Mom’s in Phoenix.

    1. Mixed (?) Message “now be complete w low income housing”

      Sounds like a mixed message; but really, not subtle.  What does a “gang element” have to do with this initiative?  And exactly what kind of “consideration of our neighborhood and who is passing through” do you feel entitield?   Evanston is diversity; we need to EMBRACE and SUPPORT everyone.

    2. Agree with your Central

      Agree with your Central Street comment – some residents of Evanston work hard to keep their love of diversity segregated. And no, there will not be any thoughtful support services surrounding this project, because life just doesn’t work that way.

    3. Are you dizzy up there on your pedestal?

      As a single mother of extremely modest income who can barely afford to live in Evanston, I take EXTREME offense at the vast majority of “Low income housing” posted by “C.”

      Why do you assume that a single mother with a low income is necessarily affiliated with gang elements and what you clearly deem trashy behavior? How many kids are families allowed to have before they’re split by divorce, death, or other unfortunate circumstances?

      It must be lovely to live in a reality where every family has two parents, is safe and happy and earns plenty of money to live in a nice community with good schools, untainted by such horrors as fast food, secondhand goods, and *gasp* possibly even the need for a little community support. Perhaps, one day, that world will exist for everyone.

      For now, I guess I’ll just hide my trashy, single-parent family far away from your judgemental eyes — until you need my volunteer hours, my tax dollars, or my son the budding firefighter to save your far-more-valuable life some day.

    4. No thanks

      With taxes Most likely on the rise for the d65 referendum, I vote no. Why is it that we as a community do so much to take in everyone, with no consideration of how this pushes out What’s left of the middle class. All of the people with coach houses and homes abroad that want to vote for this can put these unfortunate souls up themselves and not involve me or Dempster st.

  2. Does this project make our

    Does this project make our school overcrowding better or worse? Rhetorical question,  obviously.

  3. What care arrangements will

    What care arrangements will be available for children when moms are out job seeking?  Fenced outside play yard, too?   Who lives on-site to monitor the behaviors of residents who need help fitting into society?

  4. The above comments should have been reviewed by a moderator

    If comments on Evanstonnow are moderated, why is it that comments implying that affordable housing = gang concerns allowed to stand?  Or that people who need affordable housing also need to be “monitored?”

    Also, the comment about overcrowding – while not specifically implying that people of limited means are dangerous – implies that they are in some way at fault for other issues.  If the goal is to promote civil discourse, pointing fingers and assigning blame, or worse, pathologizing ordinary people is not the way to go about it.

    Note that the figures offered by Ms. Flax are *current* students in our schools, so snarky comments aside – housing them is not going to cause any difference in the number of school children in Evanston.

    1. All comments are reviewed by a moderator

      Hi Michele,

      The comments you object to were published because members of our community chose to raise them and they appear to be worth discussing..

      Those concerns may be the result of misinformation or unfounded fears, but I believe it is appropriate to let the community know that some of its members have those fears, so they can be appropriately addressed with the facts.

      You, on the other hand, seem to prefer that those fears should be suppressed — that no one should be able to speak them.

      Would you also deny people the opportunity to raise those fears at the public meeting on the project next month?

      How far would you go in silencing people with whom you disagree?

      — Bill

      1. All comments might be reviewed, but not all are posted

        I’m seeing multiple reports on Facebook of comments like mine *not* being posted. It’s one thing to allow all comments to showcase all viewpoints; it’s another to pick a problematic viewpoint and highlight it by not allowing responses.

        So who, exactly, is being silenced? 

        1. True, not all are posted

          Hi Michele,

          If all comments were posted, then there’d be no comment moderation.

          You shouldn’t necessarily believe everything you read on Facebook.

          As for the particular story that launched this comment thread, no comments supporting the project discussed in the story have yet been received — other than yours, if your comment was meant to support it.

          More broadly, as of last Friday, Evanston Now had received 1,241 comments since the start of this year, and 928 had been published.

          You can learn more about what type of comments we reject by reading our comment policy.

          Political viewpoint — whether conservative or liberal — is not a criterion we use for deciding what comments to publish.

          I can’t tell you “who, exactly, is being silenced” because most of our commenters post anonymously and because decisions about what to publish are generally made based on the substance of an individual comment rather than who it came from.

          A tiny handful of people who have exhibited repeated trollish behavior and who refuse to follow our guidelines have been blocked from submitting further comments at least until I have some evidence they intend to reform their ways.

          Commenting on Evanston Now is a privilege, not a right, and I insist the people who wish to comment exhibit some minimum level of civility and respect for the forum in which they seek to participate.

          — Bill

          1. “Gang element?”

            All of the comments I referenced violate these points in your comment policy:

            • Don’t post anything a reasonable person would consider offensive, abusive, or hate speech.
            • Don’t insult, bully or victim-blame

            We have no way of knowing what you consider a “troll,” but victim-blaming, name-calling and insulting all happened upthread. We’ve had this selfsame discussion years ago, and that’s why I rarely visit EvanstonNow – your process is extremely opaque, and when people don’t agree with it – they are banned.

            It may be a privilege to post here, but that doesn’t excuse allowing vulnerable people to be attacked in the comments, and the silencing of people who support them​. Sure, classism and racism are based on fears people actually have, but that doesn’t make it appropriate to allow in a public forum – per your own guidelines.

            I understand that you aren’t happy about the current public campaign against your commenting and headline policies, but I pointed out these issues years ago. The current reaction should not come as a surprise to you.

          2. ‘Gang element?’

            Hi Michele,

            Evanston has a crime problem. Evanston has a gang problem. It is not unreasonable for an Evanston resident to express concerns about what impact new development will have on those problems.

            If you believe this person is sorely misinformed about whether there is a nexus between low income housing and gangs, then you should be presenting the facts to better inform the person, rather than shouting the person down and saying his or her voice must not be heard.

            — Bill

      2. Wow…

        Amen, Bill. When did it become expected that ideas should be suppressed just because they are different from our personal beliefs?  This tunnel vision scares more than anything going on in the world today. The beginnings of fascism (and I mean this literally). 

    2. Implications based on facts

      On Sunday, June 15th, 2008, former President Barack Obama made a speech in a Chicago church where he explained that fathers are important because “children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison.”

      I didn’t notice any implication about how people with limited means are at fault for other issues in the comment about overcrowding. It is not reasonable or helpful to put people in too-crowded housing just because they are poor.

      C offers several alternative ideas and is contributing to finding a solution that can work for everybody, and I’m glad his comment was posted. I appreciate that EvanstonNow doesn’t censor comments made in good faith.

  5. Housing Opportunities for Women

    This is great news. Housing Opportunities for Women is a longtime, well known organization. No greater need exists than housing for women and children.

    I am overjoyed to see that this development is a possibility and encourage everyone to reach out in support with letters to the Illinois Housing Development Authority. The facilitators of various candidate forums made affordable housing a key issue in all discussions. All of us agreed – remember?

    Let’s keep the focus on this  extraordinary opportunity  and make it all about HOW – Housing Opportunities for Women Children and their good work. 

    1. Housing Opportunities

      Sorry Ann not great news! As a 2nd ward resident who just happens to live on the very block that you want this to happen on, no one seems concerned in what effect it would have on the residents, I’m wondering how long has this been in the making?

      1. 2nd Ward

        Dear 2nd Ward: My excitement about the project has to do with its existence and nothing to do with location. 

        Where it is sited is above my pay grade. The first I knew of this was when I read the article in Evanston Now. However, I hope HOW reached out to  alderman Braithwaite. 

      2. Affordable housing in Evanston

        Once again people are being asked to put their words into action. Does the city of Evanston really want affordable housing or not? It appears that everyone does… until it is being planned for their neighborhood. I understand that some neighborhoods have more affordable housing than others, but when an organization like HOW has done their homework and identified a location and funding, it is hard to say no. 

        The building that is proposed can be built here because the developer has purchased the property and does not need any help from the city. They can construct their housing without city funds and an R5 zoning allows for the construction of larger buildings. The city is not pushing this project, but if affordable housing is a priority for its residents, they should embrace it.

        Wondering how long this has been in the works? A smart developer plans and should have spoken with Alderman Braithwaite share their plan. And although this phrase sounds like an attempt to make the city seem less transparent, the city’s role here is minimal and the same as it would be for an individual constructing a private, single-family home.

        1. Au contraire…

          Does the city of Evanston really want affordable housing or not? It appears that everyone does… until it is being planned for their neighborhood.

          I think you are wrong. Nobody wants low income/Section 8 housing except for a few activists/”organizers.” But many people in Evanston are not free enough to publicly admit this – until their back is to the wall, or a project is planned for their block.

        2. Affordable housing in Evanston

          JTHOMAS please explain what you are saying in your 2nd paragraph the developer has purchased the property and does not need any help from the city of Evanston, the article clearly states that the HOW organization hopes the city of Evanston would consider gap funding in order for this project to become a success 6th paragraph 

    2. Maintaining

      I would say that maintaining property values is a higher priority than “affordable housing”.

  6. Affordable Housing

    The affordable housing theory sounds good, however does it work?  

    If we’re using the affordable housing complex on Foster as an example then we don’t want it.!! None of the resident there are from Evanston all from housing projects from the city with housing vouchers.  In addition to that the EPD reported  98 incidents in last year at the Foster housing complex. That’s 98 times in which the police had to come to handle altercations that approximately 8 times per month is that what we have to look forward to? 

    The residents of the 1300 Block of Pitner have not been given an opportunity to voice our concerns, in fact it sounds like it’s a done deal. Why is affordable housing only In black neighborhoods? Surely there are other locations in Evanston that are not all black that these residents could live in?

    This area is already plagued with the self car wash that stays open 24 hours a day, where people are allowed to sell drugs and play music  as loud as they desire pall night long. When we  as residents approached Alderman Peter Braithwaite about the problems with the car wash  he suggested that we get together and start closing it ourselves. We as taxpayers should be held responsible for closing a business nightly that we don’t own.

    The residents of the 1300 block of Pitner deserve to be heard since we are the only ones in Evanston who will have to live with it.

    1. Affordable Housing / City Governing Methods

      Personally, I support assisting women and children, but Ann Rainey’s comment above underscores just how poorly Evanston government is run for the majority of Evanstonian residents depending, of course, on the side of town on which you live. 

      Ann Rainey stated in her comment, “The first I knew of this was when I read the article in Evanston Now. However, I hope HOW reached out to  alderman Braithwaite.”  My reseponse to Alderman Rainey is that NONE of our alderman should be finding out about an initiative that seems to have a green light in EvanstonNow or any other local publication.  As for hoping that someone from the organization reached out to Alderman Braithwaite I can only say what any person with good business sense already knows… Hope is NOT a strategy.  These ideas should be presented at committee and brought to the alderman in the affected ward well before a project is at the precipice of being green lighted.  This would give the alderman a chance to hold meetings with the affected area and ensure that all concerns are addressed.  Residents are being blindsided by projects being brought into their own neighborhood and it is simply poorly rolled out.  That being said, we must all be vigilant to not make the NIMBY mantra our go-to position. 

      What appears to be going on here is just one example that underscores why residents feel we are completely overlooked while developers and development receive more support from our local government than we, the residents.  Our city employees and city manager decide more for our city than our aldermen and therefore, our alderman too are finding things out in EvanstonNow just like the rest of us.  I should think we could do better.  Our alderman should be brought into these decisions earlier instead of finding out about them in the news.  If that were the case, perhaps we wouldn’t have city employees running amok and acting on their own (much like Grant Farrar did when unbeknownst to our city council, he recently lodged a lawsuit against the utility companies because James Park, the landfill, is releasing methane into our air and, apparently, polluting all of our water pipes in southwest Evanston with coal tar, a known pipe coating that was historically used inside of water pipes). 

      I repeat “I love living in Evanston” into my mirror ten times every morning as a coping mechanism to deal with city management (or, at times, the lack thereof)…. thankfully, I love the vastly different cultural makeup of the people of Evanston!

      1. Housing project

        Hi Muneaux,

        The Dempster-Pitner project was described briefly at a 2nd Ward meeting March 9 chaired by Alderman Braithwaite, so he certainly didn’t first learn about the project from Evanston Now’s March 17 story.

        Unlike many other developments that make the news in Evanston, this one apparently can be built by right under existing zoning. If so, it won’t require as elaborate a formal approval process as ones that do require zoning changes or are planned developments.

        However, because the sponsoring organization is seeking city financial help, there will be additional review ahead of that decision on funding.

        Perhaps Alderman Rainey would care to address your contention that the city attorney filed suit against the utility companies without alerting the City Council.

        — Bill

        1. Whiplash

          Upon learning that this was announced at a March 9 ward meeting, I have what can only be described as whiplash.  Residents in any neighborhood should have a chance to comment on anything that is being greenlighted even if it is being added as of right.  As I stated above, residents feel left behind because they find out about these things after they are seemingly decided upon.  I am not alone in this, Bill.  Many other residents feel this way as well.

          It is unlikely Alderman Rainey would want to comment on what actually happened with Grant Farrar and the lawsuit against the utilities, but you never know.  After all, it is Ann Rainey we are discussing here.  That being said, it is a difficult position politically for our aldermen to admit publicly that they didn’t know of Mr. Farrar’s actions until after they’d been taken.  My source for this information is two different aldermen during two separate meetings.

    2. Basic economics

      Why is affordable housing only In black neighborhoods? Surely there are other locations in Evanston that are not all black that these residents could live in?

      Maybe because of basic economics. Somebody has to purchase existing lots, demolist existing properties and build, and then receive “low income” (i.e. low) rents. Sure, go ahead, buy out Col. Pritzker’s bed-and-breakfast on the lakefront…

      Sad that somebody even needs to ask questions like this…

      1. Economics…

        Actually, X.M., some affordable housing is being built in more expensive neighborhoods in Evanston. It just means higher property acquisition costs, which then in turn requires deeper subsidies of the projects. And that, in turn, means fewer units produced for the money expended.

        — Bill

        1. Re: Economics…

          Sure thing, Bill, more subsidies will always cloud the bottom line. Thank you for pointing that out.

          1. OTOH,

            … if socio-economic integration of neighborhoods is an important community value, then the tradeoff of producing fewer units of affordable housing for the money invested may be considered a trade worth making.

            — Bill

          2. Record of continued ‘prosperity’ after Affordable Housing

            Evanston is a very expensive city–partly because of location and largely because of very bad decisions the Council, other government bodies, the ‘theater on every block’ and other groups who want everything they want when they want it–e.g. branch libraries that make no sense. So what is the record of those moving into Affordable Housing and getting other subsidies ? Are they then able to afford the other high expense of Evanston, or wind-up moving or continuing in poverty just in a ‘better’ area ? What have all the myriad of social workers, sociologist and ‘do gooders’ [as long as they don’t have to associate with those needing help] say about the psychological/emotional pressures on people who get the aid—and from having neighbors know they do ?

  7. Why??

    I’m tired of seeing Evanston try to put affordable housing on certain sections in Evanston! why? Evanston keeps talking about is not segregated but it is that’s all they do come on Evanston why can’t you built affordable housing in 7th ward or any ward that’s not 5th ward or on dempster. Stop putting same income people in the same area.

  8. Evanston is in compliance with state affordable housing laws

    It is always important to bring up when people talk about affordable housing in Evanston that the city is in total compliance with state laws on this issue.

    As long as we are meeting an objective measure set forth under state legisltation, I don’t understand all of the hub bub.  This is an issue that cities like Wilmette and Kennilworth have to deal with.

    We are fine.

    On this particular project, as long as there is no city money or zoning variances needed, I can’t object.  But that objecttion has nothing to do with the issue of affordability. 

  9. Context

    Does anyone see the irony of the city subsidizing an affordable housing complex for single women and children while at the same time D65 is going out for a referenum because higher enrollments has resulted in higher expenses for the district (and revenues, ultimately based on property base, are capped at the CPI and thus have not kept pace)?  

    It may be true that the housing is for current evanston families that don’t have stable living arrangements. If so, this is a worthy endeavor and one that I wiould support.

    However, with 40% of students on free or reduced lunch in D65 and D202, it would appear that there is widespread availablilty of lower priced housing in Evanston.  I’m assuming of course that families with students who qualify for free and reduced lunch are eligable for afffordable housing…  I’m sure there is some flaw in my logic here…

    What is the appropriate level of affordabile housing in Evanston? 

    1. No subsidy

      There is no irony here because the city isn’t subsidizing the project. This is a private organization using the property in accordance with the existing zoning standards.

      But I do agree that the supply of affordable housing is fine. As stated above, the state of Illinois has defined a reasonable level of affordable housing that each municipality must have and we exceed the requirements.

      But if a private organization wants to build something and give it away, as long as no city funds are going to them or they are asking for special privileges they should be free to pursue the project.

      I do hope the state grant that they apparently are applying for falls through, though.

  10. Evanston Affordable Housing vs Other North Shore Communities

    If you want to see what opposing affording housing looks like, Google for the Tribune article: “Wilmette affordable housing plan draws passionate crowd” where 120+ people showed up to speak against a proposal after a developer bought the empty American Legion Post on Wilmette Ave. In fact, they use Evanston as an example of what they DON’T want to happen and have to get promises from the developer that he won’t use their Evanston property waitlist to place individuals.

    “I don’t appreciate being told I don’t like poor people when I’m worried about safety.” -Wilmette Resident

    Spoiler: as far as I know, it didn’t get approved…..

    I think it’s obvious that Evanston has an ABUNDANCE of affordable housing compared to other North Shore communities. Just look at the number of <$200k SFHs available and percent of children on free lunches. Evanston has obviously placed maintaining socioeconomic diversity as an important goal in the community and I don’t think it should come as a surprise to any resident when they move in that additional affordable housing units will be built. Evanston should be lauded for that in my opinion and I personally like when developers come in to fix up dilapidated homes to make them clean and safe for similar residents (which I have seen in small homes around the Dodge/Foster area). That helps that pocket of the community as well as Evanston as a whole.

    Now, where the debate comes into full force (in my opinion), is if we’re putting in policies that seek to actively change the population dynamics/density (does Evanston want MORE low-income residents than they currently have?) and when ordinances are put into place that distort economics (e.g. requiring developers in downtown Evanston to have a certain % of low income housing in their complexes….which obviously means the majority of those residents ultimately must pay more to subsidize the select few). And if it’s an “issue” that low-income housing is more concentrated in certain areas of the city. Those are more complex questions with passionate responses on both sides. 

    But it’s clear that Evanston has a large number of affordable housing currently, especially in comparison to its neighbors to the north. Otherwise, those living under the poverty level would have been pushed out long ago. In this case, a private organization wants to do something that isn’t being funded or subsidized by the city at all in an area that frankly is mostly “affordable” anyways. So, that all seems uncontroversial to me. I guess the debate only comes in when you factor in the fact that they want to house 16+ people on a lot that was for a single family before. I don’t know the answer to that question, but reasonable minds can differ without resorting to name calling.

    1. Definitions

      Two terms thrown about mean different things to different people and policy makers and commentators need to define what they mean.

      Affordable Housing:  To many this reads as housing for the ‘poor’, possibly don’t keep their property up, maybe get arrested, probably won’t be able to afford other expenses to live in Evanston. Originally it was suppose to include police, firemen, teachers and civil servants who work in but can’t afford to live in Evanston. The latter use is used when politicians want middle/upper class support but most residents still see the former application made of the program.

      Homeless: In general but most often referenced about Evanston students when users want to instill white guilt.  Do users mean living in the parks, tents, underpasses [like in Chicago] ? In a shelter, city/county supported facilities, cars, with friends/relatives ? Does the city/county go after both parents for child support or garnish wages ? No matter how poor Evanston is—except when the Council wants a write-up about how this is a fully-integrated city with wonderful schools that everyone should want to live here—most find it hard to believe that the claimed number are homeless—maybe not in the best living conditions and maybe not the best/adequate food, but not [viaduct] “homeless” as used to uses want to imply.

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