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.

Related link

Housing task force report

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


    1. Agree
      I agree. I don’t get the obsession with affordable housing. This is a feel good boondoggle that’s a waste of taxpayer’s hard earned money. Plus, doesn’t this fall under the category of “catering to special interests”? What about the interests of the taxpayer? Or does that not matter to the rich aldermen (I don’t think they all are rich but I get the feeling that most are since they’re lawyers)?

      1. Ditto on the agree
        Typical Evanston “feel good” program that, based on a cost-benefit analysis, does not return a good value for the money. I am talking about the value provided to taxpayers and the low-income individuals and families who are the beneficiaries of this bloated initiative.

        See this story.

        As the feds have stated, we have too many affordable housing organizations in this town. And there are numerous low-income units sitting empty now.

        Unfortunately, I have concluded that these well-meaning organizations lack a grasp of the financial realities involved in utilizing taxpayer dollars efficiently to provide the type of low-income housing that is needed. From what I can tell, they do not focus enough resources on helping low-income individuals keep their homes.

        Instead, these organizations just keep asking for more money for units that don’t sell. Then the organizations get indignant when anyone questions how they are spending taxpayer dollars.

        I am not cold hearted — just realistic. Sadly, those who need low-income housing options are not well served by too many organizations chasing taxpayers dollars or having those organizations spend those dollars inefficiently.

  1. Ax affordable housing programs
    Here’s an area where the city can really cut back on the budget. These affordable housing projects have been a bust at taxpayer’s expense.

  2. Knee-jerk responses are uninformed on this issue
    I invite anyone who thinks there is no need for affordable housing – not just in Evanston but throughout communities in the North Shore – to get more knowledge and understanding about the issues of homelessness.

    An amazing non-profit organization based in Evanston serving the North Shore is Connections for the Homeless. They work with affordable housing groups to help keep families from becoming homeless and to place those families and kids that have lost housing into stable housing situations again.

    With a wait-list of dozens upon dozens of homeless families with children in Evanston, they can help the community understand the need for and shortage of housing for Evanston residents.

    People react to the term ‘affordable’ housing thinking in terms of conventional definitions of the phrase … but actually, the term is more nuanced and refers to government regulated programs and rent levels for segments of our community that need various forms of assistance. They are not necessarily capable of living in housing on their own without other help for other issues, such as case workers for mental illness, handicaps, and other needs.

    In these times of foreclosures and economic hardship, many are discovering they are more in need of these types of programs than they may have ever realized. Even households in Kenilworth – to avoid homelessness – have had to draw upon the prevention programs organizations like Connections deliver.

    Affordable housing is only one layer of a complex web of programs and services within the Evanston (and broader) community that provides the safety net we collectively, as a compassionate society, have woven over decades of practical actual experience with housing issues to provide our neighbors one of life’s most basic needs in an hour of crisis – a roof over their heads. If you volunteer and get involved with organizations like Connections and the other fine organizations in Evanston and encounter face to face some of the real life situations served by these groups – you will not call for elimination of these programs, but instead appreciate the truth of the issue: ‘there but for the Grace of God go I’ (or you).

    Those who work these issues every day can attest – it costs our community less money to correctly address these realities than it does to deny their existence and fail to provide compassionate solutions.

    Less knee-jerk selfishness and more compassion – we can’t afford otherwise.

    1. Nice try
      Wow. When you put it like that..well..sure. Who could say no? But, not so fast. I think you’re being manipulative. Right out of the book of propaganda. Sally Struthers-like, even.

      Anyway, I, too, want the same things as you. Really. I do. I just don’t think it’s fair to try to force us to pay for it. ESPECIALLY in times like these. Go solicit wealthy individuals and corporations who might have some money to spare. Heck. Send out solicitations to Evanston residents. I’d be happy to donate a few bucks (though I am certainly not wealthy) on my terms and in the amount of my choosing. Seriously. You DO like giving people choices, don’t you?

      1. Understanding our form of government
        Your argument would be valid if we lived in a democratic society. We instead have a Democratic Republic, which means we vote for representatives to do our ‘bidding’. Be it Aldermen, Senators, Representatives, etc. We do not have a pure ‘one person, one vote’ style of government on issues. That’s what we vote in representatives to do for us as their constituents.

        I would suggest that if you do not approve of the way your representative is interpreting your views on issues that you vote in a different representative that more closely relates to your views. That’s the only option we have.

        Or just hop aboard the Glenn Beck crazy train and try and reform our system of government.

        1. Missing the point
          Spare me the condescending lecture on how our government works, RacerX. And I don’t see how what you said has anything to do with what I said. I think you’re missing my point, which is simply that I just don’t think this is something the government ought to be doing. End of story.

  3. “I am for doing good to the
    “I am for doing good to the poor, but…I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. I observed…that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer.”
    —Benjamin Franklin

  4. The Daily Northwestern
    The Daily Northwestern 1/19/10 reports on the $18 million grant for affordable housing.
    Sounds like the same old strategy, put it in existing poor areas—maintain segregation, just make it pretty.

    Why not do construction in the old Kendall property ? old Central theater lot ? un-used ‘park’ Lincoln/Asbury ? vacant land NE Lincoln/Ridge ? land behind City Hall ? or a large number of other spots.

    The quote:
    “On top of concerns about home values, there is also sometimes a stigma attached to the people who live in subsidized housing, said McGonigle, an Evanston resident and project manager for Northwestern Facilities Management.

    “The old adage of NIMB; ‘Not in my backyard. I don’t want an affordable person living next to me,’” McGonigle said. “Well, that person you can’t tell the difference on the street,” continued McGonigle. “He drives the same car, rides the same bicycle, eats in the same carry-out as you do. There’s nothing different between him and his family and yourself.””

    If true neighbors there would not know the difference from the high price condo/house owners they have now.

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