Despite some misgivings about the high cost, Evanston aldermen Monday approved spending $579,000 in federal and city funds for a not-for-profit group to buy and rehab a two-flat apartment building for affordable housing.

Kim Ulbrich, the executive director of the Highland Park-based non-profit, Community Partners for Affordable Housing, said there’s a great need to help people who are working, but only making 60 to 80 percent of area median income — the income group targeted by the proposed project.

Alderman Don Wilson said he was concerned about how few people would benefit from the money spent. “I’d rather help a larger number,” Wilson said.

But in the absence of an alternative proposal for spending the money, and facing a mid-year deadline to either commit to the project or lose a small portion of the federal funds for it, the aldermen voted unanimously to approve it.

During public comment several speakers praised CPAH’s work.

Carla Spenser.

Carla Spenser said it had been very hard, as a single mother, to afford housing for her four children. But she said she now has an affordable home under a CPAH program and that her kids are now thriving.

Chuck Robb.

Chuck Robb said CPAH had helped him get an affordable home at 1941 Jackson St. “Without programs like this, the character of Evanston will change,” Robb said.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggested that program rules that let tenants remain in the apartment if their incomes increase — as long as they still pay 30 percent of their income for rent — could result in people sticking around after they no longer needed a subsidy — effectively denying assistance to somewhat who needed it more.

But a CPAH official said tenants whose incomes increase typically move to market-rate units because they find they can afford a bigger unit once they’re earning more.

The aldermen also unanimously approved renewal of a federally funded program that provides up to two years of rental subsidies to families with children in which the adults are underemployed..

The Tenant-Based Rental Assistance program is administerred by Connections for the Homeless. The new $250,000 funding for the program will provide housing subsidies for ten additional families for two years.

The goal of that program is to transition participants into market rate housing by helping them during the two year program develop their capacity to earn a living wage.

Related story

Two affordable units to cost the city $579K (4/21/17)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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