Evanston aldermen this week called a halt to staff plans to keep tenants in an apartment on the Civic Center grounds who’ve fallen several thousand dollars behind on their rent payments.

The city leased the apartment at 1223 Simpson St. in 2005 to Nolan and Norma Robinson but neglected to renew the the lease when it expired the following year.

City staffers say the Robinsons continued to pay rent on the apartment for a while, but by this spring were more than $4,000 behind when city staff became aware of the shortfall and tried to work out a repayment schedule with them.

“My suggestion is we send these people a 30-day notice to pay up or begin the eviction process,” Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said at the City Council’s Administration and Public Works Committee meeting Monday night.

“We spent a lot of money renovating this and bringing it up to code so it’s very nice,” Rainey said of the apartment, located on the second floor of the old boiler room building on the south side of the Civic Center site.

Noting that the staff proposed a new rent rate of $1,300 a month on the apartment, roughly twice what the tenants had paid under the old lease, Alderman Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, asked, “Is there any reason to believe they’ll be able to pay twice the rent they paid before?”

“We’ve been subsidizing them, that’s what we’ve been doing,” Wollin added.

“I managed property for 20 years,” Rainey said, “I can tell you for sure these people cannot do this. You can’t catch up with this if you’re in their situation.”

“They need to get a cheaper place. It’s just nuts,” she said. “I’d be willing to offer them $1,000 in moving expenses so they can move on. There is nothing supportive about allowing people to incur this kind of debt. It’s very bad for them. They can never catch up.”

The committee voted unanimously to reject the new lease agreement staff had proposed.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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