Less than completely satisfied with the report of the city’s affordable housing task force, Evanston aldermen voted Monday to hold a special meeting on the issue themselves Dec. 7.
The task force, composed mainly of housing advocates, produced a report that calls for more spending on housing programs, increasing the city staff devoted to housing issues and engaging in a marketing campaign to build community support for affordable housing.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said the report appeared to be attacking the aldermen when it called for increasing the “political will” to carry out housing programs.
She said that any time she “made any criticism of the disaster the community was facing,” with programs advocated by the city’s housing commission, the commission “kept pushing for more money for projects that were dead a long time ago.”
Several affordable housing programs have required bailouts from the city in recent months as the housing market declined and developers were unable to sell the units they’d produced at prices that would recover their costs.
Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said he was concerned that the housing commission had never previously raised any concern about the non-profit Community Housing Development Organizations the city has relied upon to produce affordable housing.
Task Force Chair Susan Munro said the CHDOs were limited by a city policy that required them to finish one project before they could start another.
“That meant,” she said, “that they couldn’t grow because they never had any cash flow.”
Munro conceded that a consultant to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development told her this weekend that with five CHODs, Evanston has too many for a city of its size.
Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, called the recommendations from the task force “fabulous.”
But she agreed with Rainey’s call for a special meeting, rather than — as City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz had suggested — having staff produce a draft work plan on housing issues for a council meeting in January.
Housing task force report