Evanston aldermen voted Monday to introduce an expanded plan to require housing developers to provide affordable units in new construction projects.

Despite the failure of the existing program to generate any new affordable units over the past decade, the City Council voted to expand the program to apply to rental as well as for-sale multi-family developments and to make a variety of other changes as outlined in the chart below.

The new program reduces the project size trigger from 25 units to five units in “transit oriented development” areas near CTA and Metra stations and to 10 units in other parts of town.

It provides new density bonuses and reduction in parking requirements to developers who agree to provide one affordable unit on site for every 10 market-rate units — to at least partially compensate for the lower return on building the affordable units. And it raises the penalty fee if they don’t. It also varies the bonus and penalty scheme based on whether a project is in a TOD area.

And it adjusts the income thresholds that exclude people from consideration for an affordable unit — encouraging provision of the lowest income housing closer to transit stations.

Carliss Sutton

More than a dozen affordable housing advocates spoke in favor of the new ordinance Monday night. No developers showed up to oppose it.

But two landlords who own smaller rental properties in low-income areas of town, Tina Paden and Carliss Sutton, complained that the ordinance would do nothing to help small landlords who’ve been trying to provide affordable housing options for years.

Sutton called for the city to make loans available to such landlords to fix up their properties.

The ordinance was significantly revised by staff over the past several months after a public forum on the proposal in June. Community Development Director Mark Muenzer said Sarah Flax and Dominic Latinovic of his staff had reviewed “all 500 inclusionary housing ordinances around the country” in the process of developing the latest version of the plan.

To be adopted the ordinance still requires another favorable vote by the aldermen. That’s scheduled for their next meeting, on Monday, Nov. 9.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Three question

    1) How is "near" defined? Across the street? A few blocks away?

    2) Is the parking proposed "on site"? If not, how far away from the building is acceptable?

    3) How will this proposal affect the multi-unit buildings currently under construction?

    1. 1. Assuming you’re referring

      1. Assuming you're referring to how far from transit stations the transit oriented development zones reach, it starts at 1/8th of a mile — or roughly a block. But in many areas it extends considerably farther than that. There's a detailed set of maps defining the TOD areas in the City Council packet.

      2. Parking locations would presumably be the same as for other developments. We've seen recently that in at least one case parking about two blocks away was considered acceptable.

      3. The ordinance will have no impact on buildings now under construction or already working their way through the approval process. (Recent developments generally have made some negotiated provision for affordable housing as part of the planned development approval process.)

      — Bill

  2. There is plenty of affordable housing in Evanston
    There is a state law requiring cities to have an affordable housing policy if they don’t meet state standards.

    The city of Evanston waay exceeds those standards. Prohibiting certain types of development because of this is just silly.

    Even more silly are the landlords showing up wanting money from the city. These people should realize how lucky they are. It is a very tight rental market right now. If these landlords want to improve their properties, go to a bank, get a loan. Don’t ask the taxpayers to subsidize what should be a profitable business venture.

    1. Have these questions been answered ?
      What if the person, low income or for example city worker who could not afford to live in Evanston, later exceeds the income levels set for getting such a unit. E.g. a policeman gets a JD or MBA, a teacher gets a MA, a low income person gets there degree and then or apart from these qualifications, gets significant promotions. Do they get to stay in the unit so that the unit become similar to N.Y.C.’s “rent control” problem ?
      If a renter moves, does the unit remain an ‘affordable housing unit’ e.g. rent controlled ? For how many years ?
      What if the building does a condo conversion ? Will the unit be treated differently–i.e. sale price not at same level as other units or the city buy the unit [similar to law of ‘first refusal’ for condos] and subsidize the units rental from then on ?

      1. Optimistic Projections for builders/buyers/renters
        The Council and other groups are very over optimistic about the ‘real’ costs of the set-asides and payments in lieu.
        I don’t think developers will give up major profits to meet the city’s requirements or that buyers/renters will want to pay the effective subsidy in their rent/purchase to offset the city’s requirements.
        Nothing is free. If you increase the costs of development someone will have to pay. Higher rent/purchase price, fewer features [which will lower what renters/buyers will pay], costs for ‘extras’ tacked on to what the price would have been.
        If there are renters/buyers who would gladly pay the extra costs, maybe there are better ways–like making a donation to their church or a poverty program.
        Even in the ‘Peoples Republic of Evanston’ the laws of economics have not been revoked. Despite the effective city motto of ‘To each according to their need, from each according to their ability’, there is a cost to pay for everything as many countries and cities have found–NYC and rent control being just one..

  3. Solution staring the Council in the face
    IF they really care so much about solving the affordable/low income housing problem [instead of having the “man behind the tree”–builders, buyers, renters, taxpayers], then convert the Mansion to affordable or even low income housing. Then move on to the Noyes Center and other city owned/sponsored property. Along with that downsize the city hall facility and staff to where they can be housed in a smaller property and then convert the current city hall to affordable housing.
    Oh, that’s right those who need housing don’t give large gifts to political campaign, are not ‘educated’ enough to understand why all the cultural sites are needed and probably don’t vote as often—city owned property now in the future is reserved for the intelligentsia who understand these things.

    1. I agree!

      Oh but the wealthy liberals NEVER want the affordable housing in their neighborhood which affects their property values…so they put burden on middle class renters and let them and the condo/apt residents shoulder the burden. Evanston is run by and for the 1% and that is why after endless noise and air pollution over here on Main and Chicago I find it will be quieter, healthier and cheaper to move into Lincoln Park with Parking. I alsp find it hysterical that the Evanston greenies let their BIG SUVS idle in front of Starbucks in the winter and my apt smells like exhaust and the parks reek of lighter fluid int he summer. Liberals create rules for others but never themselves.

    2. Evanston has enough low

      Evanston has enough low income housing, but lets continue to burden the taxpayers it isnt like Evasnton residents are not already subsidizing Northwestern, lets subsidize more poor people because taxes are too low, our pay continues to sky rocket, and employment is soo prominant.

      1. What is the real need ?
        Has the Council had a questionnaire or survey of city workers, already living here or would like to, of how many need ‘affordable housing’ and would that be enough for them to want to move to Evanston—i.e. would other reasons like taxes, crime, extended family, transportation, other expenses of living here that are greater than where they live now, stop them from moving here.
        What do suburbs like Kenilworth, Winnetka, Lake Forest do about affordable housing for their city workers ? It would be more likely those people come from Evanston to work there.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *