Crain’s Chicago Business is featuring a “best communities” guide for Chicago area home buyers — but in the vast majority of cases Evanston won’t show up as one of the top five picks.

The guide projects five different household types — suburban family, city family, empty-nesters, city singles and weekenders — and ranks communities on five different criteria — diversity, schools, crime, price growth and commute time.

Five suburban communities make the desirable list for at least three of the scenarios — Highwood, Woodridge, Skokie, Oak Park and Mount Prospect.

What do they have that Evanston doesn’t?

Well, digging into the Crain’s data, it appears they all have substantially lower crime rates than Evanston and a much higher growth rate in home prices.

All those towns are regarded as more diverse than the average community — although most are not quite as diverse as Evanston.

Among the favored five, only Highwood has schools that perform better than Evanston’s.

Three have median housing prices lower than Evanston, but the other two — Highwood and Oak Park — are more costly.

Except for Highwood, with a typical commute time of 21 minutes, the other towns, including Evanston are pretty tightly clustered around the 30-minute commute mark.

Update 12:25 p.m.: A reader has discovered that it is possible to make Evanston show up as the 5th choice for a suburban community, if you restrict your price range to something in the vicinity of $250,000 to $320,000 and make “high diversity” your top priority and “solid price growth” your lowest priority.

Keep those priorities and tighten your price range to $300,000 to $330,00 and you can even make Evanston jump to 2nd on the suburban list.

There may be a few other isolated permutations that also cause Evanston to rank.

We’ve revised the lead of the story to reflect that.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Why should they choose Evanston?
    There’s no reason for Evanston to be a desirable community. Home prices have stagnated, taxes have risen, infrastructure is becoming shabby and the city council is as inefficient as ever.

    Perhaps this should be a wakeup call for our politicians.

  2. Another nonsense guide
    Crain’s survey forgets one key aspect – the diversity of housing.

    There is a huge price range of housing in Evanston that can’t be found in these other communities. So, comparing Evanston’s home price growth to these other suburbs is absurd. And Evanston’s dense downtown area is hands down superior than these other suburbs. And don’t forget Northwestern and the lake. This guide is ridiculous.

    There have been numerous layoffs and resignations at Crain’s in the past few years. This flawed guide is testimony of that and just how far the quality of Crain’s has sunk.

  3. Evanston is neither a suburb
    Evanston is neither a suburb or the city, it is an almost perfect mix of the two with all the pros and cons each category can include. I wouldn’t expect Evanston to rank for city family households because it is too suburban; I wouldn’t expect it to rank for suburban family households because it’s more like the city than its neighbors.

    High diversity that is healthier though still imperfect is a major plus, especially as this has been realized in high-performing, fully segregated schools where wealthy white children don’t default to private schools as in neighboring Rogers Park and where one doesn’t have to go through the CPS lottery every few years.

    For city family households, taxes are only high in Evanston when you don’t take into account the cost of private school tuition if you can’t go to your neighborhood school and you’re fine with the lottery. Otherwise, it’s a wash with Evanston coming out slightly ahead, depending on the actual price of tuition.

    Crime is simply a function of this being more like the city, and not like affluent enclaves walling themselves off from the rest of the community. While separation still exists in Evanston, it is a smaller city than Chicago so the different “sides of town” are still in contact – especially via parks and rec, public transit, and the schools.

    One wouldn’t expect high growth in housing values here because Evanston is a more mature market near the water where values are already high. I would argue consistency in valuation is as important or more. I don’t think most families are looking for high growth in their home values; they are looking for all the other positives they want in a community while being assured the value of their homes won’t decrease. I put that down as a weakness in Crain’s criteria for this survey rather than any weakness with Evanston. The real issue here is the cost of entry (i.e., affordability) when it comes to housing in Evanston, and not its comparatively slow growth in valuation.

    Commute time is very positive and includes access to the Loop by both Metra and CTA. The only real problem with Evanston in this area is the difficulty in accessing the interstate and getting to O’Hare (and the near impossibility of getting to Midway).

    In short, if you want the burbs, go to the burbs. If you want to be in the city, go to the city. If you want the ideal mix of both, move to Evanston.

  4. It’s the high taxes
    Evanston’s reputation for high taxes and fees is widely known. Many people I talk to won’t move to Evanston specifically because of the high taxes and fees.

  5. Score

    Evanston’s population is relatively transient compared to the other communities and not an attractive destination for families looking to homestead. Additionally, the gang presence in residential neighborhoods is a real problem that is not being discussed but everyone knows exists. Couple those items with a dysfunctional city government and Evanston doesn’t shine. 

  6. A reasonable first cut
    Interesting tool. Of course there is far more to consider when picking a place to live, but it looks to me like it finds options that i would not otherwise consider.

    I had an surprising result when Vernon Hills popped up in a list where short commute was a high priority. It would not be so for people who worked in the Loop. So maybe you get a better answer if short commute is given low priority. You don’t care about the commute times of other people who live there, you only care about yours.

  7. Evanston’s not for everyone

    For those of us that are lucky to live here we know how great this town is. It’s a little pricey to get in but well worth it. Tell people you live in Evanston and the first thing that comes out of their mouth is, “oh wow, nice”. The schools are great, we even voted to raise our taxes to make sure our kids get the right kind of education. We have N.U and the lake. I’ve been here 60 years and it’s been a great investment, both monetarily and for my kids futures. We also have a medical marijuana facility. Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

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