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.
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.
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 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.