Evanston aldermen Monday rejected an ordinance developed by housing advocacy groups and opted to develop their own proposal instead.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the proposed ordinance — which would have required that 10 percent of units in new multi-family developments be subsidized — amounted to punishing people for their decision to buy or rent in a new building.
“This isn’t a community-wide program,” Wilson said. Instead, for a 100-unit building, only the people in the other 90 units would have to pay.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said the ordinance needed changes to make it more palatable for developers.
“What kind of return is reasonable,” Grover said. “We don’t have standards yet for that.”
She said she also wanted to know whether a similar inclusionary housing ordinance in Highland Park has stifled development there.
Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said he’s concerned about seniors who have lived in Evanston a long time. “We should be making an all-out effort to retain them,” Tendam said.
He said he would support providing bonuses for developers who constructed affordable housing. “We’re not trying to work against them, he said.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she was concerned about the changes at the North Shore Hotel, where a much-needed rehabilitation of the building has led most long-time tenants to move out because they found the new rents unaffordable.
“I know a lot of people in that building hated to leave Evanston,” Fiske said, “But you can’t expect a developer to come in, fix up the building and not pass along those costs.”
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she was concerned that the new ordinance would have no impact on current housing.
“We’re talking about keeping people in Evanston who are here now — but this does nothing to help them,” Rainey claimed.
But, she added, “We can’t subsidize everybody’s rent. That’s not the proper function of municipal government.”
And, she added, “if you don’t have developers building housing, you can’t porvide additional housing for people.”
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said housing is a critical issue in tumultuous economic times.
“We see wage stagnation and housing prices increasing, and people can’t move into ownership, so they’re staying in rentals,” Wynne said.
“We need to hear from all the stakeholders on what’s feasible,” Wynne said. “Not that I’ve ever been known as a friend of developers, but we need to know how this will work for them.”
On the suggestion of Alderman Rainey, the aldermen voted to create a subcommittee of the Planning and Development Committee to bring together developers and the housing organizations to try to develop a new proposal by early this fall.