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Aldermen to discuss reparations program

Evanston aldermen are scheduled tonight to discuss the housing reparations program that's been under development this year by a City Council subcommittee.

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Robin Rue Simmons.

Evanston aldermen are scheduled tonight to discuss the housing reparations program that’s been under development this year by a City Council subcommittee chaired by Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward.

As outlined in a staff memo to aldermen, the program would provide up to $25,000 each to eligible Black residents that could be used toward the down payment and closing costs for the purchase of a property, or to repair or reduce the outstanding mortgage balance on a property the recipient already owns.

The property could be a single-family home, condo, townhome or multi-unit dwelling, but it would have to be the principal residence of the recipient.

The housing program is proposed by the subcommittee to be budgeted at $400,000 a year, or 40% of the total $1 million in annual revenue from the city’s share of taxes on cannabis sales that the Council has voted to devote to reparations programs over the next 10 years.

The staff memo lists several additional conditions for being eligible for the program, besides being Black.

One condition requires that the recipient demonstrate that he or she had suffered discrimination in housing due to city ordinance, policy or practice.

Another requires that the recipient be a direct descendent of a Black resident who had lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 and had suffered discrimination in housing due to city ordinance, policy or practice.

It’s not clear from the wording of the staff report whether a recipient would have to meet both, or only one, of those two conditions.

Under the proposal one eligible person could qualify for a maximum of $25,000 and the cap for a property with eligible co-owners would be $50,000.

The reparations proposal is listed as a special order of business discussion item.

Staff appears to be seeking Council direction on how to fund the administration of the program, whether through hiring a part-time staff person or partnering with a financial institution or non-profit and on creating a process for reviewing the eligibility of applicants for the program.

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