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Aldermen limit housing help

If you make a little more than the metro area's median income, forget about getting housing help from the City of Evanston.

The City Council Monday, at the urging of Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, rejected a staff proposal to make the city's affordable housing programs available to people earning up to 120 percent of the median.

Instead, the council voted to reserve 60 percent of the funds for households earning 80 percent or less of the median, with the other 40 percent available to people earning from 80 to 100 percent of the median.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, said she favored the 120 percent cap. "I want to help the workforce in this community. If you assume two young teachers with a combined income of $80,000, it would be very hard for them to buy in this community."

A staff memo said that, for a family of four, 80 percent of median household income would equal $56,900, 100 percent would be $75,400, and 120 percent would be $90,480.

But Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste said, "Those who are able to make $84,000 or $75,000 with a family of four don't really need our assistance. I know a couple of people working for the city who had to buy in Wisconsin because they're only making $45,000 or $50,000."

Alderman Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, said she favored workforce housing programs that would help policemen, firefighters and teachers and urged leaving it to the city's housing commission to come up with "a variety of programs that fit diverse segments of the population."

But Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said that people at 120 percent of the median might have the knowledge to get private funds, or they could wait and gradually put together a downpayment. He said he was more concerned about lower income folks living paycheck to paycheck.

The aldermen adopted the income cap in approving an ordinance renaming the city's affordable housing fund, but postponed approval of a companion resolution setting guidelines for administering the program to give the staff time to draft revisions that the aldermen sought.

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