A plan to dramatically expand Evanston’s inclusionary housing ordinance drew a generally skeptical response from aldermen on the city’s Planning and Development Committee Monday night.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said advocates of the proposal keep saying “the developer will pay for” the subsidized housing units that might be built. under the program.
“But in reality it amounts to a focused tax — on the wrong population — rental tenants and condo owners,” Wilson said, because developers would pass the cost on to buyers and renters. He suggested the city should look at what other incentives could be used to encourage production of more affordable housing.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, disputed claims by housing advocates that the city has lost 3,000 units of affordable housing in the last few years.
She suggested that claims that affordable units were being replaced by luxury properties were false. “Very few of the big fancy buildings have been built on property that had previously contained multi-family housing,” Rainey said.
She added that the city had rehabilitated nearly 100 units of affordable housing in recent years with an $18 million federal neighborhood stabilization program grant and also built 28 affordable units as part of the Emerson Square project, partially funded by the same grant.
Rainey also expressed fears that the ordinance might halt new construction in town: “What will we do if we pass the ordinance and no new housing is built? Then we won’t have any new affordable housing.”
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said a provision in the new ordinance that would reduce the development size threshold for having to include affordable units from 25 to 5 would be too burdensome on projects like the adaptive reuse of factories and warehouses for housing stock.
She said she would want to consider increasing density allowed in developments as a reward for providing affordable housing — but said it should only be “by a small amount, because density is not always popular in Evanston.”
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, was the most sympathetic to the proposal. She said she wanted to keep as many people in the community who want to stay here as possible and was especially concerned for seniors and for young people who can’t afford to live in the community.
With two committee members — Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, and Jane Grover, 7th Ward — absent from the meeting, the committee voted to ask staff to develop more information about the proposal and postponed further discussion until its June 8 committee meeting.