Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl announced today that the Evanston has received over $18 million in federal stimulus funds to redevelop blighted and foreclosed properties.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl announced today that the Evanston has received over $18 million in federal stimulus funds to redevelop blighted and foreclosed properties.

The amount is a little less than half the $40.6 million the city had sought in Neighborhood Stabilization Funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The funding approved is targeted “to buy boarded up, foreclosed properties and convert them to affordable housing for both ownership and rental” to maintain diversity in the community, Mayor Tisdahl said in a statement.

The city had also proposed to construct about 100 units of new affordable housing on the vacant Bishop-Freeman property north of Emerson Street and west of Ashland Avenue as part of its grant application.

City Planning Director Dennis Marino said it was not clear from the initial grant award notice from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development whether HUD had approved just one type of project or had partially funded both.

He said that further detail from HUD would likely be available within a day or two.

The award of $18,150,000 in NSP2 funds will be used in targeted areas across two census tracts in west Evanston and south Evanston that have been identified as areas of need because of high foreclosures and vacancies.

The city, in conjunction with its private partner, Brinshore Development LLC, would either rehab the properties or demolish and replaced them to create roughly 100 affordable units for rental and resale.

These activities will benefit households whose income is at or below 120 percent of the area median income, with 25 percent of the funds being used for households at or below 50 percent of area median income.

Brinshore, the City’s partner in the venture, is one of the Midwest’s largest development firms in the affordable housing market. The firm has completed more than 40 developments that, with several more under construction or development, total over 4,300 apartments and homes valued at more than $1 billion.

City officials say Brinshore has extensive experience in using complex funding mechanisms including Low Income Housing Tax Credits and HUD funds, such as NSP and HOPE VI, to make its rental and homeownership opportunities affordable to families across the income spectrum.

The areas targeted for the NSP2 funds are Census Track 8092 in west Evanston — bounded by Green Bay Road, Emerson Street, Ashland Avenue, Church Street and McCormick Boulevard — and Census Tract 8102 in south Evanston — bounded by Howard Street, Asbury Avenue, Oakton Street and the CTA tracks.

The areas targeted for the program are tinted red on this city map.

This funding will go hand-in-hand with a variety of existing plans and initiatives already going on in these areas such as the implementation of the West Evanston Master Plan.

“The award of this grant will also allow us to stimulate economic development in these two areas. Neighborhood revitalization is a key aspect of what we are attempting to do in this community particularly in the distressed areas of west and south Evanston,” explained Community Development Director Lehman Walker. “The opportunities there, to be addressed as part of the grant, will enable us to solve some of the problems that have been long standing in these geographical areas.”

Federal officials have said this round of NSP grants is being awarded competitively to applicants that developed the most innovative ideas to rebuild local communities, while demonstrating that they have the capacity to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars.

Nationwide the program is awarding $2 billion to communities to stimulate housing development.

“I applaud the greatly appreciated efforts of our senior Senator Dick Durbin along with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky in bringing these much needed stabilization funds to our great community,” Tisdahl said. “I would also like to thank Senator Roland Burris for his letter of support for our application and the city staff for putting together an incredibly good project which detailed exactly how the money would be spent so that the Federal Government had a lot of confidence that we would spend the money well, and we will spend the money well.”

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Just what we need – build more affordable housing
    The City of Evanston recently BAILED OUT several affordable housing developments in Evanston. This at a time when the city has an $8 million budget deficit.

    The chairwoman of the Community Housing Development Organization recently admitted to the City Council that a consultant to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development told her that Evanston has too many affordable housing projects for a city of its size.

    And NOW, Evanston city leaders want to use stimulus money to build MORE affordable housing!?!?!?!?

    Let me remind everyone that in the past three years, Evanston property values have plummeted while property taxes have increased – 8.2 in the second installment period in 2009 (mainly because the tax multiplier was raised, increasing the assessed value of our homes). We are in a severe Recession with state unemployment above 10 percent and the highest sales tax in the nation!!!!!!!

    Meanwhile, developers of new Evanston condo projects went bellyup – The Grand Bend at Green Bay and Sienna to name a few. Evanston, btw, charges developers of new projects an affordable housing tax. No one bailed them out. No stimulus money for them.

    No one is bailing out middle-class Evanstonians who have lost their jobs or who were forced to sell their properties less than what they paid for.

    The priority of the City Council should not be affordable housing. That’s a misnomer when you consider housing prices have dropped to “affordable levels.”

    In fact, Wally B. certainly should now consider eliminating funding for city-financed affordable housing programs since we’ve got the $18 million in FREE money. Don’t hold your breath, though.

    It’s really laughable that Democrats Roland Burris, Jan Schakowsky and Dick Durbin are taking credit for GIVING AWAY OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY!!!!

    This is a prime example as to why our taxes have been rising during a prolonged Recession. If you’re not planning to move into an affordable housing unit, I suggest you vote with your feet and finances.

    That would mean anyone but a politician with a (D) next to their name.

    1. Housing Grant and Costs down the road
      With Evanston’s high taxes and like to increase substantially given the budget deficit and pension cost, will the people these houses are built/re-habed for, be able to afford the taxes and other costs of living in Evanston or will the city subsidize those costs too ?
      The houses/property are probably run-down or abandoned for a reason—people can’t afford the mortgage, taxes; don’t have incomes to meet their needs; don’t want to live in the neighborhood. You can’t just take money [from government or other], spend it and expect the results to be positive.
      If the council decides they want business in Evanston instead of taking forever to make zoning and other decisions, harass with petty rules/regulations with no foundation, and high taxes [and cost of doing business with the city], then everyone would be able to [and want to live in] Evanston. Whether they will put first things first, remains to be seen.

  2. I live in one of these areas
    Sadly, I live in one of these areas. I did not know that my home is considered by the federal government to be located in a blighted area. From what I have been told, my home is worth no less than $500,000 so I thought that I had purchased in a decent neighborhood.

    I am shocked that I plunked down that kind of money and the City has now pronounced that I live in a blighted area. I am certain that my neighbors in similar homes will be surprised as well. And our tax bills are through the roof to have this status.

    But now, my home will have the stigma of being located in an area subsidized by the federal government due to it being blighted. Great, just great. That will certainly look great on a real estate listing when I need to sell my home because I can’t afford my property taxes.

    Wait — maybe I can convince the City to lower my taxes because I live in such a pitiful area? That can happen, right? Of course, the answer is no. My taxes will not drop, despite this badge of dishonor on our neighborhood.

    I am totally disgusted by the City of Evanston. It seems like those in charge do everything that they can to drive the middle class from this town. Our barely middle-income neighborhood has taken another disastrous hit by having the City apply for, lobby for and accept this grant. Please tell me that this is some kind of bad joke.

    Before any holier than thou responses, please be ready to answer these questions: how does this designation help my property values and when will my taxes be reduced due to the blighted status of my neighborhood?

  3. Waste of money
    Well, this sounds like a good deal for Brinshore Development LLC and a bad deal for taxpayers. How did Brinshore get this deal exactly?

    I just found a nice piece of affordable housing and I didn’t even need any government support. It was a foreclosure unit purchased at auction. There’s a whole lot of this sort of affordable housing, thanks to the crash in the housing market. Anyone who wants this affordable housing can go out and get it with a little effort.

    There is absolutely no need for the taxpayers to subsidize affordable housing. This is completely absurd and I hope to God the City of Evanston is not wasting any money on the project.

  4. Why Tip-toe around such obvious planning flaws. Come on people.
    So The Mayor, a giant developer, and other local power brokers who live outside the “blighted areas” want to use tax payers money to by up foreclosed properties and convert them to affordable low income housing (Section 8 and equivalent). And under the guise as stated; “to maintain diversity” in the community, a quote from Mayor Tisdahl.

    “Maintain diversity” … First of all, there is little diversity in these areas, especially West Evanston, as if you haven’t noticed. Besides when you drive there to pick your child up from the High School you rarely go over there. You don’t go there to shop, you don’t stroll around there without over the shoulder concern, you have few friends there, so stop pretending. In this neighborhood, maintaining “diversity” means maintaining segregation. To maintain it, tax payers will fund new low income development which will bring in nothing other than additional low income folks of the same demographic. Where is the diversity, why tiptoe around the issue. The blighted west Evanston area targeted is primarily black and poor and struggling to tread water economically. Is that a neighborhood that would better be served by the addition of even more low income housing? Or by comparison; an influx of middle class people from any and all ethnic backgrounds who are welcome to buy less expensive properties and vacant lots in need of rehab and build-out. The city’s plan will do nothing but fortify the boundaries that already exist as lines of segregation in Evanston. We DO NOT WANT additional tax dollars to fund more ‘Section 8’ properties in these well delineated areas that have perennially suffered economically due in large part by the segregated racial demographic that already exists.

    The city, and its private partner, Brinshore Development LLC are thinking in reverse. To them “economic diversity” is a PC word they use because they are afraid to say ‘racial diversity’ instead. What our ‘Black’ neighbors and neighborhoods need is TRUE integration. According to our city planners and officials, the stereotype of what our ‘projected image’ of Evanston is, is one of diversity. Now we have acknowledged “blighted areas”, guess what, they are our ‘Black Neighborhoods’, and our Mayor and city officials answer is to layer on more section 8 and ‘equivalent’ households whose income is at or below 120 percent of the area median income. What idiots would think like that?

    1. Low Income Project—Block of Mayor and Aldermen
      Perhaps decisions about low and mixed income housing would be settled if they were required to be in the block the major, aldermen and zoning board members live.

      Actually, Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, does live in the west Evanston census tract that’s targeted for the NSP2 grant. Since only two of Evanston’s 14 census tracts qualified for the program, it would be impossible to have the nine aldermen, who by law must live in the ward they represent, all live in the affected area.
      That said, there certainly is an uneven distribution of low income housing in Evanston.
      — Bill

  5. Brinshore in the News
    According to the Chi Town Daily News:

    “Brinshore Development LLC and the Michaels Development Company gave a combined total of more than $80,000 in campaign contributions over the last 10 years to several Chicago alderman and city officials, state campaign contribution records show.”

    “Both of those companies have gotten significant CHA contracts in the past, including contracts for the former Robert Taylor Homes and parts of Henry Horner, two of CHA’s largest developments.”

    Brinshore Development LLC president Rich Sciortino worked for the Chicago Department of Building’s abandoned property program from 1989 to 1992.

    Also of note:

    David Brint of Brinshore Development used to work for Rezmar, Tony Rezko’s defunct company and he introduced Barack Obama to Tony Rezko. Tony Rezko was convicted of several counts of fraud and bribery in 2008.

  6. Housing grant is discriminatory and promotes segregation
    I think Honestly People has a good point – this neighborhood stabilization plan won’t create diversity but will do the opposite – maintain the segregation of the area.

    I would like to add that a good argument can be made that this so-called neighborhood stabilization plan is class discrimination. Brinshore will purchase foreclosed homes on the open market, rehab or build new homes then sell and rent ONLY to low income folks.

    What if a Northwestern University student wants to rent a Brinshore home? What if a middle income person wants to buy a Brinshore home? Could they? Not according to the grant application.

    Is that fair? If you’re not low income then you can’t buy or rent one of the 100 TAX-FUNDED Brinshore properties. That sounds like class discrimination to me.

    The irony in all this is that according to the city’s grant application these two neighborhoods were hit hard by the real estate downturn mostly because of subprime loans to LOW-INCOME PEOPLE!!!!! Folks who couldn’t afford to buy got subprime loans.

    Now taxpayers are not only paying for the bank bailouts but are paying more taxes in stimulus money to create the same situation that greatly contributed to the Recession in the first place!

    Another thing, these Brinshore homes probably will have another unintended consequence – decreasing property values.

    It angers me to see the self-congratulatory attitudes from Mayor Tisdahl, city aldermen, Dick Durbin and Jan Schakowsky – all Democrats – who take credit for spending OTHER PEOPLE’S money on their myopic social engineering experiment that likely will cause more problems than it would solve.

    In my opinion, the $18 million would have been better spent helping the homeowners in those areas rehab THEIR homes before putting them on the open market and getting the best price possible.

    To give you an idea how clueless Tisdahl, Durbin and Schakowsky are, they held a press conference in February at a home of a woman who they claimed couldn’t sell her home because of the real estate downturn. The only problem with that is the woman NEVER HAD HER HOME UP FOR SALE!!!!!!

    I can see November from my front yard.

    1. Income limits for NSP2
      The maximum income limit for the NSP2 rehab program is 120 percent of area median income, which last year for a family of four was $90,500.

      So, while some of the properties may be rented to people making as little as 50 percent of area median income, or $37,700 for a family of four, it’s not accurate to say that all the units will go to “low income” people — unless you have an unusually broad definition of low income.

      That said, there are interesting questions about whether and to what extent the program on balance promotes economic diversity in the targeted areas.

      Also, under the federal ground rules, the program does nothing to promote greater diversity in Evanston’s more well-to-do neighborhoods — because it does nothing to create housing opportunities for lower income people in those areas. But then the program was designed to address the foreclosure crisis, and that crisis for the most part is affecting lower income neighborhoods in Evanston.

      — Bill

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