New census and real estate sales data show that the typical Evanston family can afford the typical home here.

As city residents debate whether to raise the real estate transfer tax to subsidize home ownership, advocates have argued Evanston has a housing affordability crisis.

But newly released survey data from the U.S. Census Bureau indicates the median income of Evanston families was $90,132 last year.

And the latest real estate sales data shows that the median price of a single family home or condominium in Evanston stands at $338,000.

Assuming a standard 20 percent down payment and typical expenses for taxes and insurance, a family with the median income in Evanston could quality for a 6.5 percent, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage on a home priced at $375,000 or more — well over the median — assuming they had only a modest amount of other debt.

The census bureau defines a family as a group of two or more people who live together and are related by birth, marriage or adoption. It says that in 2000 the average Evanston family had three people.

Non-family households in Evanston have a much lower median income: $36,381. But the 2000 census indicates nearly 80 percent of those households consist of a single person living alone.

The median-priced for a one-bedroom condo in Evanston is $198,000. Making the same assumptions about downpayment, loan terms, taxes and insurance, the typical Evanston single person living alone with a $36,381 median income could afford to buy such a condo, but only if he or she had very little other debt.

However, non-family households with more than one member who together earn only the median non-family household income would have difficulty affording a median-priced two-bedroom condo.

And family households with only one modestly-paid wage earner and a number of children also face difficulties buying an appropriately-sized home here.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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3 Comments

  1. I don’t think these calculations are a good measure
    because they obscure displacement and succession that has already occurred. A simpler and more telling evaluation would be median Chicagoland household or family income, or at least one involving the proximate north suburbs.

    However, once this calculation yields a “no,” THEN Evanston will start taking affordable housing seriously at multiple levels. The problem is, it will be too late to do anything about it.

    1. Calculations seem fine to me
      A search on realtor.com just left me with 12 single family homes in Evanston, IL priced at less then $275,000. Add condos to the search and 293 properties turn up, starting at $115,000.

      $275,000 is significantly less than the median in Bill’s commentary, leading me to believe his calculations are in fact quite generous.

  2. Another thing about “typical” families
    By definition the “the typical Evanston family” can afford to live here. In fact, every Evanston family can… and already does 🙂

    Would be the median income of people we want in our community (police, fire, teachers) afford a typical house? I don’t know… if I have some time I’ll look it up but if anyone else is curious I’d love to know. That’s an important part of the debate.

    Also, the noted case of single-earner families: could a single teacher with only one child afford to live here?

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