City officials and housing activists will ask aldermen Monday to strengthen a program designed to draw more low and moderate income people to Evanston.

The proposed amendments to the city’s 2007 inclusionary housing ordinance would expand the law’s coverage from just new construction condo developments with 25 or more units to all for-sale, rental and condo conversion projects of five or more units.

It would also:

  • Force affected developers to set aside 20 percent of their units as subsidized housing, rather than the 10 percent in the current ordinance, if the project receives any public support.
  • Increase the penalty fee from $40,000 to $100,000 for each subsidized unit not provided.

While the ordinance focuses on creating new housing for the poor and those with below-average incomes, it does nothing to eliminate existing poverty-level housing, and thus, if effective, it likely will increase the number and proportion of poor people in the city.

The proposed ordinance is largely based on one already in force in Highland Park, one of only a handful of other communities in the metro area that have adopted inclusionary housing rules.

Compared to the rest of Illinois, which has a statewide poverty rate of 13.8 percent, Highland Park is an island of affluence — with a poverty rate of just 5.7 percent.

Evanston’s poverty rate, by contract, is only marginally below the statewide average at 12.8 percent.

In Highland Park the median household income is $115,321, more than double the $56,853 statewide median. In Evanston median income is $68,051 — just 20 percent over the statewide level.

Do inclusionary ordinances work?

Given the turmoil in the housing market over the past decade, it’s difficult to tell what impact inclusionary housing ordinances have had on the production of new housing. But here’s a look at what’s actually happened in the two communities.

Highland Park’s experience

Before the market crash, Highland Park officials told a researcher that the 2003 adoption of their ordinance stalled development in town for two years as developers came to terms with the new rules.

Between that time and the housing market collapse, a report to Highland Park’s housing commission indicates, three for-sale housing developments covered by the ordinance were approved and completed. They provided 63 market rate and 11 subsidized housing units.

Two other projects were approved, but never completed.

Now, with a revival of the market, Highland Park is eyeing one plan for five affordable units in a 30-unit rental development and another project with eight affordable units in a 52-unit development.

Since 2000, Highland Park’s population has declined by nearly 5 percent — from 31,365 to 29,902. Its poverty rate has remained unchanged.

Evanston’s experience

Evanston’s existing inclusionary housing ordinance, which applies only to new condo developments, was adopted in 2007 in the twilight of a boom that had seen nearly 1,200 new condominium units built since 2000.

No condominium project of substantial size in Evanston has been approved since the inclusionary housing ordinance was adopted and none is in the approval pipeline now.

But since the housing market recovery began, planned developments totalling 469 units of rental housing have been completed in Evanston, and 356 more units are currently under construction.

A for-sale development of 19 single family homes is under construction.

And another rental project, with 112 units, is scheduled for a final vote at Monday’s City Council meeting.

So since 2000, Evanston has seen construction of more than 2,000 new housing units that were not covered by inclusionary housing restrictions, and none that were.

In that period Evanston’s population has grown from 74,239 to 75,570 and the poverty rate here has increased from 11.1 to 12.8 percent.

What do you think? Does Evanston need a broader inclusionary housing ordinance? What risks or rewards do you see if the new ordinance is adopted? Your comments are welcome.

Related story

City may demand housing for poor in new apartments

Related document

Council packet with the proposed housing ordinance amendments

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Do they stay up at night coming up with these ideas ?

    City government seems to stay up nights seeing how they can hurt the tax base, spend more money and drive more people out.

    We already have enough problems to solve and enough people who need to move up the ladder.  Threats to builders about the cost and finally recovering their costs and residents who want housing that fits in with their neighborhood [see how the Kendal College property was protected from even middle class housing by the neighbors influence on the Council]. 

    Instead of solutions to existing problems, the city comes up with 'programs' that don't and won't work and plans that will keep people out and raise taxes.  Will voters ever learn that the existing government would not recognize economics or common sense if it hit them in the face.

    1. Please let the free market place work for Evanston!

      ~~Our local representatives have lost touch with the real world we live in. Evanston is broke and can’t meet the financial responsibilities. We give companies and people TIFs to build and keep businesses in our community to generate jobs and taxes “some-day”.  And when we get private people who would like to build condos and multiple family living areas in Evanston with their own money, we want to tell them they cannot maximize their profit potential and (less we forget) increase our tax base. Please let the free market place work for Evanston! We have the opportunity to increase the tax base of our community and fund all those projects everyone wants. Let’s see: Up-grade our schools for all children; keep the library branches open; build $4 million dollar bike lanes; fix our broken streets; fix our old drains and sewers; keep all our parks open; support the arts; increase police budget to stop all shootings and violence; pay our pensions for the city workers, police, fireman and teachers; support the youth organizations; help the elderly; and help the low income families already here. I could go on and on with all the projects that this community would like to do. All it takes is money. The way to generate money is to let the market place do it for you. We need to take care of our current Evanston families with low income. We don’t need more! This set-a-side low income housing percentage requirement and/or payment penalty has got to go. I am tired of all the “Feel Good” ideas of the local representatives. Stop the madness and let’s right the ship now and help the people that already live here.  Let’s let the free market increase our tax base and help keep our community growing and getting healthier! Evanston needs to increase the number of people paying taxes not increase the amount of taxes being paid by the people already here!

  2. Don’t Agree with City Proposal

    I understand the good intentions, but this is almost double speak. If you look at our businesses in the city, it is very expensive to live in Evanston (considering the restaurants, markets, etc). Even if these people can afford to rent something, how are they going to enjoy Found or have a drink at Smylie Brothers? These places are not cheap and it is not always possible for those of us who make above the median to afford to go out to the restaurants/bars.

    I agree with the other commenter; let's solve the basic problems (shootings, robberies) and not create solutions where there are no problems.

    1. Declaration of Evanston!

      "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Evanstonians are created equal, that they are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the ability to drink at Smylie Bros. and dine at Found."


  3. Housing

    The 150 or more former residents of what was the North Shore Hotel who were were forced to move due to increased rental costs and the Councils blind refusal to have any set aside will be thrilled. Of course they were older adults and Evanston places a very low value on them,,,many who lived here until what is now there last years. Suspect profit making will win out this time too.

  4. Attracting More Poor People to Evanston

    Since it is primarily the middle class that are paying for this, shouldn't this be a referendum? My taxes are way too high already and I soon won't be able to afford to live in Evanston or else I will be one of the poor who is subsidized by any taxpayers that are left…..

  5. Hey, about us in the middle class?

    I guess the $18 million federal grant to stabilize two low income areas in Evanston wasn't enough for our liberal city officials or the new Emerson Square low income housing that once was planned as condos and townhomes.

    Has anyone noticed all the new rental buildings going up in Evanston. More people are renting than owning. Not long ago, the city declared that low income housing was no longer a priority as housing values plunged. 

    Comparing Highland Park to Evanston is incorrect because Highland Park does NOT border an  Chicago's Rogers Park, which has its fair share of crime and poverty.

    City offiicials need to stop meddling in the free market. There are way more than enough programs for the poor in Evanston. But what about the middle class, many of whom are still underwater. Our property taxes keep rising and the second tax installment is due in two weeks. Anyone care about them amymore?

    Maybe our city officials can fly those illegal aliens streaming across our borders to Evanston. Better yet, let's force the Biscuit Lofts (601 Linden) to set aside 20 percent of its condos for low income housing. Our City Manager, Wally B., lives there and I'm sure he would have no problem with that idea..The mayor has a big house as does my ward alderman, Mark Tendam. Maybe they could rent out a few of  their bedrooms to some low income folks.

    This next election can't come soon enough. We need to vote in fiscal conservatives.

  6. Getting Out of Dodge

    My wife and I have lived in Evantston for over ten years and have reluctantly tolerated high property taxes.  We have from time-to-time considered leaving, questioning what our taxes were getting us.  This is most likely the tipping point.  Time to go.  I'm done paying for low-income subsidies, store-front churches, library branches that serve a handful of soccer moms and Northwestern University's obscene endowment.  My fondest memory of Evanston will be seeing it get smaller in my rear-view mirror.

    1. Please don’t let the exit door hit you

      Please don't let the exit door hit you in the rear when you leave.

  7. Where is the benefit?

    I get it – another feel good ordinance. We should require these low income units to be established near the lakefront for a diverse experience all around.

  8. As though things aren’t bad enough

    Things are already bad enough in West and South Evanston, with the multiple shootings and increase in crime and local law enforcement resources stretched to the bare minimum. Now we want to increase low income housing that will attract more crimminal element from Chicago.Let's put that low income housing in areas like the Lakefront and North Evanston and see how the soccer moms react.None of our City Council are losing any sleep over this because it doesn't affect their wards as for the wards it does affect the alderperson hasn't shown much support to the citizens to figure out sollutions to help alleviate the current problems. I see a mass exodus from our beloved city, Then where will their TAXBASE come from.

  9. This begs the question. Are

    This begs the question. Are Evanston leaders stupid? I already know that they are not the brightest blubs in town but this is beyond the belief of rational humans.

    They will not be happy until we need to change Evanston's name to Near-North Chicago. 

    What an Embarrassment.

    1. Rogers Park is Evanston
      Rogers Park is Evanston and Evanston is Rogers Park. Soon there will be no difference whatsoever other than the municipal borderline. I agree with a previous comment- solve the pressing issues of crime first.

  10. No — address gun violence near ETHS and elsewhere first

    These goofball City of Evanston employees and other advocates must mean well.  But they remind me of a family whose has a fire consuming their house while they are on the phone making arrangements to store more gasoline in the garage.

    News release to these goofballs:  our house is burning down.  People are scared.  I know teenagers and preteens (who are not involved in gangs) who don't ride their bikes or play outside in the early evening because they fear being shot.  People (including kids) are on edge because Evanston is becoming a place where you have to worry about being outside. Here is my quick rundown of the gun-related crimes in the past month:

    — a guy shot and killed in broad daylight just blocks from the Evanston-Skokie border;

    — teens smoking pot by a community center and one of them was an 18-year-old convicted felon packing a loaded gun;

    — numerous people shot (with at least one killed) near the high school, complete with at least one lockdown of the high school during summer school (what a great introduction to the school for our thousands of incoming freshmen);

    — a guy gunned down in broad daylight just blocks from the Evanston/Skokie border;

    — reports of "shots fired" in numerous areas around town;

    — a masked gunman trying to break into a business;

    — a guy with a loaded weapon and body armor arrested while driving around.

    You can give every flimsy excuse you want — oh, it's just Chicago gangbangers who are making the trouble, oh, it's a couple of feuding families, oh, it's just gangsters thugs shooting at each other. If you think that you have identified the cause(s), what are the solutions?  I believe that the City needs to take more time to understand the cause of these problems then propose solutions that are broader than more make-work programs for teenagers.

    Remember…the City has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars spent in the past two years on outreach to an estimated 3,000 "opportunity youth" in Evanston (teens and young adults who are chronically disengaged or currently disengaged from school and work).  Again, as I asked on another story: is this money well spent when the contact with these disengaged youth seems to be absymally low and violence seems to be on the increase?

    When I watch my neighborhood kids outside playing while I stand in my window or on my front steps, I find myself looking for people just hanging around or driving by in cars that are not familiar to me.  And I wonder "could one of these people mistake these children and teens for rival gang members and they pull out a gun?"

    All available funds and energy must be devoted NOW to reducing Evanston's gun violence problem. Do not look for ways to add more low-income families and individuals to our already apparently overburdened support system for people who need community and government assistance until you figure out how to improve the quality of life for people living here (and paying taxes now) who are living with the scourge of gun violence right now.

    Seems that City leaders and do-gooders care more about the people who don't live here than the people who already do.  Shame on them for ignoring the obvious needs that we have right now. How will diverting more funds and adding more bureaucratic programs to lure more low-income residents help address our current violence problems?

    1. Well said! I couldn’t agree

      Well said! I couldn't agree more. It's time for our civic "leaders" to get their collective heads out of the sand! 

  11. No more low income housing in Evanston

    I think it is ridiculous that the Evanston City Council is even thinking of increasing the number of poor people who live here. The police department and both school systems are already overburdened with keeping up with the negative social outcomes correlated with the increase in poverty in Evanston. Evanston has already done its fair share in helping the poor. In the recent past, Evanston had the second largest number of people living here through Section 8 housing, second only to Chicago. It is time for other communities to do their part. Enough already!

  12. Evanston, the 51st ward of the city of Chicago
    Since our alderpersons and mayor want us to mimic our neighbor to our south, lets just ask to be incorporated into the City of Chicago as its 51st ward. We then would need only one alderperson, we would get rid of the mayor and we would have so many more police and fire personel at our disposal. I don’t know what our school districts would look like, but given the path that we are on now, it’s only a matter of time before they look like Chicago’s. Yes, let’s have more low income housing in the 51st ward!

  13. Trying to hang on

    We are an almost single-income family who scrimps and saves so our kids can play soccer. Our stove is broken but our fixed income landlord's property taxes are going through the roof. We have to wait a few months and I understand; We couldn't hang onto our Evanston home. One family can stop safety cameras near ETHS but I can't ask the city council to relieve the tax burden on Evanston families. This propaganda machine about social issues is a smokescreen because they haven't the slightest idea how to get jobs for our youth.

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