Planned updates to Evanston’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance would require new rental developments to include affordable units or pay penalty fees.

Sarah Flax, grants administrator in the city’s Community Development Department, says City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz recently asked staff to consider possible revisions to the 2007 ordinance.

It now requires that 10 percent of units in new condo developments with 25 or more units be aside for affordable housing or that developers pay a $40,000 fee for each affordable unit not included in the project.

Flax said the city is looking at expanding the ordinance to include rental housing as a way to “strengthen and update our housing ordinance.”

At a meeting of the Housing and Homelessness Commission in May, city staff recommend amending the ordinance to require that:

  • Ten percent of units in new rental projects and condo conversions be set aside for affordable housing.
  • The project size threshold for the set-aside rule be cut from 25 to five units.
  • The set-aside requirement be doubled if the project receives financial assistance from the city.
  • The “fee-in-lieu” payment be increased from $40,000 to $100,000 per unit.

Eligibility for affordable rental units would be capped at 60 percent of area median income. The proposal also recommends using a land trust model to hold ownership of for-sale units and requiring both rental and for-sale units “to remain affordable in perpetuity or as long as legally possible.” 

Although the current ordinance has been on the books for over seven years, it has not produced any affordable units or fees in lieu for the city’s affordable housing fund — at least in part because of the housing market crash that has largely stalled new condo development across the country.

The commission approved the staff recommendation and suggested that half the affordable units be set aside for people earning under 30 percent of area median income.

Flax said staff would consider the commission’s recommendations and that the proposed ordinance will be presented at the Planning and Development Committee meeting July 28.

“It’s a long time in coming,” said Paul Selden, executive director of Connections for the Homeless, an agency that provides housing, employment and supportive services to homeless individuals and families. “It’s better late than never. I’m glad to see it’s one of those things they finally caught up with.”

Selden said in the 1960s, 70s, 80s and through the 90s, Evanston had “more than its fair share of affordable housing,” and more than any other community in the area.

“But the times have caught up and a lot of that housing has gone away,” Selden said.

Like the ordinance currently on the books, it’s possible that the proposed amendments may do little to increase the affordable housing stock if interest in building new rental developments in the city were to come to a crashing halt.

Selden said he expects the rental market to tank at some point in the near future. But he added that doesn’t mean the city shouldn’t amend the ordinance.

“I’ve been in the affordable housing business a long time and you have to take the long view of this, and if you miss the cycle at least something will be in place in time for the next cycle,” he said.

Selden said the fee in lieu payment should ideally be increased to reflect the actual cost of building a unit of housing.

But, he said, $100,000 rather than $40,000 is still a “more realistic buyout provision.”

“This is a really hard decision and our community is not alone in facing it,” Selden said. “There is not a community in the U.S. that doesn’t have a problem with affordable housing, at least an urban community, and some are much worse than what we’re dealing with.”

Join the Conversation


  1. Why?!

    We want to get rid of the crime. Not encourage it in nice area. Evanston is full of idiots in power.

    1. Affordable housing is not just for the poor its just affordable

      Your assertion that people that would qualify for affordable house would increase crime is absurd and honestly insulting. If you did any research you might realize that many of the fine professionals that teach your children, make sure your home doesn't burn down and protect your streets would qualify for affordable housing. I think its a shame that many of these professionals can't afford to live in the city they serve.

      Affordable housing is not just for the poor its just affordable. 


      1. Facts and figures


        City and agencies need to furnish actulal salary ranges of  working people to support the arguement. Per Cents of something mean nothing.

  2. What is “fair share of affordable housing” ?

    How much affordable housing can Evanston "afford" ?

    There is a lot of affordable housing currently in Evanston as measured by the fact that 40-45% of ETHS students are eligible for free or subsidized lunches. 

    What is the criteria our community should use to determine what is "fair"? I think we need to have a broader and more thoughtful discussion before we enact more rules and regulations which encourage more "affordable" housing.

    How about encouraging more affordable housing for the middle class in Evanston?

    It appears that our community if bifurcating between the rich and the poor and it's the middle class which is being ignored and getting squeezed out of Evanston.

    1. Mr. Paine is completely right
      Mr. Paine is completely right. It is extremely hard for middle class families in Evanston to own a reasonably priced single family home. If more emphasis was put on affordable housing for those families perhaps even more city employees and those like them would be able to live in Evanston.

  3. Make developers fix the 100 year old water pipe
    How about having developers pay to fix the 100 year old water pipe they hook up to?
    Rather than afford housing non-sense- require them to have the streets in front of their projects repaired. Ofcourse you might think TIF funds are for this – but Wally and friends give them away as free grants and loans that sometimes are never paid back. Anyone remember when the recently torn up all the streets in the downtown – why – then did bother to fix the water pipe when they did the project, By the way they are talking about redoing Sheridan Road- I have been told they are not going to replace the water pipe which is 100 years old, but spend $5 million to repave it.

  4. Has the city changed its priority on affordable housing?

    It was only two years ago Evanston dropped affordable housing from a list of the city's top priority goals.

    The city manager said Evanston "has made significant progress" in the area and that the work "has been successfully folded into the city's general operations."

    Evanston got an $18 million federal grant announced in December 2009 to stabilize two neighborhoods, rehab 100 housing units for low and moderate income renters and buyers.and build 32 units of new construction apartments for low and moderate income residents on Foster Street.

    What's happening here is the city wants that fee, thinking the devleopers will pay it rather than agree to affordable housing units.

    When are we going to elect sensible and consistent aldermen?

  5. Actual Figures

    Why doesn't show what the ACTUAL Dollar figures are for "Eligibility for affordable rental units would be capped at 60 percent of area median income" rather then  per cents. Make it easier for residents to understand and either support or not support.  Why do we need to use "gobbledygook"? 

    1. Actual figures

      People tend to use the percentage figures because the income thresholds are adjusted for household size and thus it requires a table full of data to fully explain them.

      You can find one such table here.

      But to mention one cell from that table, for a one-person household, 60 percent of annual area median income in the Chicago metro area is currently $30,420.

      — Bill

    2. Affordable Housing—What does it really mean

      Most people would agree that people need affordable housing but really don't know who the targets are.

      Income levels only tell part of the story.  With the crime level in Evanston, people have to wonder if the uniits will go to the same [type of] families that are involved in crime.  We don't know what their current income levels are—would they be targets for affordable housing. We also don't know what control the city would have on the rentals if the tenants commit crimes—and given the city government's budgeting, control of infrastructure projects and general absence of control once they pass a law, how it will be managed.  If the 'affordable' clients are firemen, policemen, teachers, etc people would not worry but it has not been defined, at least to the public, who these people would really be.

      Also will higher income people want to live in those buildings unless 'control' is part of the rental process. Also what has been the record of crime, upkeep, fire/police calls, in affordable housing units ?

      What is 'affordable' ?  A lot of middle class Evanston residents would like to live in Kenilworth but know even if they were given 'affordable' [e.g. Evanston home/rental prices] once they moved there the expenses would still make living there difficult.

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 *