A proposal from Alderman Robin Rue Simmons to limit a home-buyer assistance program to the west side of her 5th Ward came under criticism from City Clerk Devon Reid at a Reparations Subcommittee meeting this afternoon.

Rue Simmons said during the meeting conducted by teleconference that she wanted to limit the program to her ward because it was residents of that ward who were most impacted by discriminatory housing policies in the past.

Devon Reid.

But Reid said that would continue the pattern of segregation that those housing policies created rather than solve the historical harm.

“Its almost as if you’re redlining again,” Reid said, if the city only helps blacks to buy houses in the west end.

Reparations, he said, should support black residents who want to buy homes in the 8th or 6th or 3rd wards, he added, rather than only purchases “in an already segregated community.”

Rue Simmons said that given the limited funding available for the reparations program and the wide array of possible goals, she believed the funds hsould be focused “on the area that was harmed.”

The proposal discussed by the committee would provide black would-be home buyers with a forgivable loan or grant of up to $10,000 to assist them in purchasing a home.

Deputy City Attorney Nick Cummings said he had experience drafting such programs in a prior job and would work with the committee to refine the details of the proposal.

Committee members, who, in addition to Rue Simmons, include Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, are still hoping to come up with a final proposal to present to the City Council next month.

The Council has agreed to fund a reparations program with up to $1 million a year in revenue from a tax on marijuana sales that the city should start receiving in September.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Blind leading the blind on reparations
    This spat between Reid and Simmons will seem quaint once either plan faces judicial scrutiny.

    Any attempt to provide reparations need to go to specific people who endured specific hardship countenanced by the city.

    An effort to provide homeowner assistance to low income people would be fine, but it would have to be eligible to anyone who met certain income requirements–you couldn’t restrict people based on race.

    You, theoretically, could compensate people who were subject to redlining, but there would have to be specific documentation that the person subjected redlining suffered a specific harm. Since redlining has been illegal for 50 years, there probably wouldn’t be many people who could be eligible. Even this type of scheme would be opposed since most of the entities supporting redlining were federal agencies and private lenders. The city would have to establish what local government’s specific role was in the practice.

    There wouldn’t be a problem to use the money for affordable housing, but the city could only use something like income as a criteria for eligibiity.

  2. Mr. Reid is Right

    This idea would be another form of redlining and cronyism. 

    I’m all for the concept of reparations, but I would rather this money go towards college educations than housing. I understand the idea that housing would keep the money in Evanston, but housing brings along so many factors such as this. Eradicate segregation, not create a new version of it.

    I think the money should target the younger generation, as opposed to all black Evanstonians. How this is handled can set up a slippery slope – where do you cut it off? Who else has been discriminated against in this community over its history?

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