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.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Quit Choking Evanston

    “Create a subcommittee" means let's “pass the buck” or even better let’s “kick the can down the road”. Stop all this non-sense and let developers increase our tax base by building what the free market can handle. 10% hold back for low income housing in a building is a joke.  Aldermen please quick choking Evanston! Let real people, invest real money into Evanston and put this city back into a growth cycle! Aldermen, please do what you guys are good at: worrying about plastic bags and a new logo for the city.

  2. Silly Evanston aldermen

    Our aldermen say they want set asides in new building developments to keep people in Evanston. Excuse me but where are these Evanstonians living right now? Apparently they can afford it. So why worry if they can afford new construction?

     Anyone wonder if rising property taxes are causing people to move out of Evanston?

    1. Apparently they can afford it…..Not True

      "They" as you say Al cannot afford it.  More than 350 of the students in Evanston k-8 schools are considered homeless right now – this number has doubled in the past three years – and its in high part that rental prices continue to rise here while there is NO Affordable housing option. 


      Family Promise and Connections for the Homeless have both increased by several fold the number of family units they provide but the waiting list is long.  If you would like to join me next week at our church where we host families (thru Family Promise) who are homeless (most from Evanston), I'd be glad to have you meet folks who by lack of a support network and very high housing rates have no place to live. They are very grateful to be part of the 3-4 families who are moved weekly from church/synagogue to another so they can have a roof over their heads while they seek jobs and save for permanent housing. 

      They and many others can't afford it.  Evanston calls itself a carrying community and we are.  Yet, we have created no feasible, sustainable method to address the issue of homelessness in our midst.  We wonder why so many of your children are not meeting their full potential academically – this is a whole community issue.  Let's start an open dialogue about the role we all play and the balance that needs to get created so we don't stifle development but we respond to a huge, pressing need in our community.  There are models out there that are working, let's honestly and openly evaluate the options without kicking this issue to the curb yet again.

  3. Function of City Government?
    Council member appear to be clueless as to the function of city government, other than to keep giving our money away. The Next Theater was quite interesting, set up a loan repay for $75,000 for rent they did not pay then give them a new lease for over $30,000 until next year!
    For months now I have been questioning the huge fiscal mess at the water plant NOT one of them, has bother to respond in an intelligent manner, they continue to refuse to demand any accountability of the operation, and last year passed on a 10% water bill increase without any discussion. Lately staff is starting to claim to me we have the cheapest water rates in the state, how is that? When you keep under capitalizing your operation – and not repairing the plant and distrubution system, you can keep rates down. My numbers show – this system is not bringing in any profit, its time for the staff to present the real numbers.

    1. Subcommittee=Exclusion

      Why motion to exclude the community for the creation of a private subcommittee ordinance to foster housing inclusion and diversity? Just a reminder…The stakeholders are the community.

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