Evanston aldermen voted 6-3 Monday to impose more penalty provisions on new multi-family construction in the city in an effort to force development of subsidized units.
They adopted amendments to what they’ve labeled an “inclusionary housing ordinance” that expand the scope of the scheme to cover rental as well as condominium units, reduce the project size threshold for requiring compliance and increase the penalty fees developers will be required to pay.
In return, the ordinance permits some height and density increases in an effort to reduce the adverse financial impact on developers.
While complying the demands from housing activists that they approve the new regulations, several aldermen who voted for it expressed concerns that it might kill off new development in the city and said they wanted to carefully track its impact.
But they rejected an amendment, offered by Alderman Brian Miller, 9th Ward, that would have added a sunset provision that would have let the ordinance expire in four years if the council didn’t vote to renew it.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said that wouldn’t provide the predictability that she said developers were looking for in dealing with the city.
Alderman Ann Rainey.
A proposal from Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, to delay the effective date of the ordinance from Jan. 1 to June 1 to give staff more time to implement it failed for lack of a second.
Community Development Director Mark Muenzer said he believes that most developers in the area now are familiar with such requirements, after adoption of similar rules by the City of Chicago.
He said that developers proposing about 1,000 housing units are already in preliminary conversations with staff about projects that probably will not be submitted before the Jan 1 effective date of the ordinance.
Muenzer said one other project, at 831 Emerson St., is already under review and would not be covered by the ordinance and that another, at 1815 Ridge Ave., would probably be submitted before the deadline. Those projects — the first targeted to students and the second an assisted living development for seniors — total roughly 460 units, Muenzer said.
Although the ordinance calls for building subsidized units at the site of new construction projects, Muenzer said that from his conversations with developers he believes most would choose to pay the penalty fees of $75,000 to $100,000 for every 10 units in a development to avoid having to do that.
Muenzer has estimated that about 2,500 new housing units will be created in Evanston over the next five years and that the ordinance will lead to the inclusion of 250 subsidized units in that count.
However it’s unclear how the city would build a new housing unit for $75,000 or $100,000.
The city’s existing subsidized housing ordinance — which applies only to condominiums — has not resulted in production of any new subsidized units, since it was adopted in 2006 — just before the condo market collapsed.
Alderman Don Wilson.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the new ordinance isn’t fair — that it imposes penalties on most new multi-family construction in an effort to deal with the housing affordability problem while completely exempting single-family homeowners and tenants in existing buildings from having to contribute to the cause.
“Ask what you contribute to it,” he told members of the audience. “If it’s nothing — think about what you can do.”
Subsidized housing scheme put on hold (11/10/15)
Subsidized housing plan resurfaces (10/26/15)
Ideas floated for broad housing tax (6/30/15)