Evanston city officials say they’re on track to meet federal deadlines to spend an $18 million grant to rehab foreclosed homes.

At another of a series of open houses staged to show of homes repaired under the program, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky today said the project proves that public-private partnerships can really work.

One blighted house can have a negative impact on the whole block, Schakowsky said, “but now that this beautiful home is for sale, the block is a place anybody would want to live on.”

Top: Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, standing on the walk, welcomes visitors to the open house. Above: Rep. Jan Schakowsky with, at right, aldermen Ann Rainey and Delores Holmes.

The rehabbed home Schakowsky toured at 1733 Leland Ave. on Evanston’s west side is now on the market for $175,000. Prospective buyers have to meet certain income requirements. More information is available on the city website.

The home, with 990 square feet of first-floor living space, has three small bedrooms, a combination living-dining room, and a large kitchen with new appliances and granite countertops.

The basement includes a large family room and one of the home’s two full bathrooms.

The city is facing a deadline of next February to spend all the federal funds from the grant that was awarded in late 2009.

Grants Administrator Sara Flax says the city, which has already spent two-thirds of the grant money, is on target to meet the deadline.

So far 58 properties with a total of 80 units have been acquired and the goal is to have 100 scattered site units rehabbed by the time the program is finished.

Thirteen of the units are now occupied — with 10 rented and three sold.

Nearly two dozen more units have been rehabiliated — with 18 available for sale and five for rent. Rehab work is underway on 20 more units.

Not all the properties have turned out to be as simple to fix up as the one shown today.

Flax says four properties acquired — including one 1509 Emerson St. — turned out to be so deteriorated that rehab wasn’t feasible.

1509 Emerson St.

Those, she said, will be demolished, with new housing to be built on the sites.

In the case of 1509 Emerson, Flax said, it turned out that the three-unit building had originally been built as a single-family home and had numerous structural problems dating back to the long-ago conversion.

The NSP2 program is also providing a portion of the funding for a new-construction development called Emerson Square. The first phase of project is expected to break ground this summer. The city’s partner in the NSP2 program, Brinshore Development, has obtained state low income housing tax credits andd other financing totalling $10.8 million for that project.

The city reports exceeding goals set in the program of awarding 25 percent of subcontract work to minority-owned, woman-owned and Evanston-based businesses.

It says 25 percent has gone to minority-owned businesses, 28 percent to woman-owned firms and 60 percent to Evanston businesses.

Evanston architect Nate Kipnis said the program has been a huge help to local architects and contractors during the housing slump. More than 40 percent of architects in the metro area have been unemployed in recent years, he said.

And he said the program has made it possible to take some of the worst homes in the city and turn them into assets to the community.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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