All the growth in town has Evanstonians debating whether housing density is good, and whether more would be better.

Providing some context for that debate is the website of for Center for Neighborhood Technology’s new study of how housing and transportation costs interact.
It includes a map that shows just how diverse Evanston is when it comes to density.

Evanston housing density

The color coding on the map is a little hard to read — but if you look closely you’ll see that Evanston has a neighborhood with 2.2 to 3.2 households per acre out along Lincolnwood Drive in northwest Evanston.

It has several areas with 3.2 to 4.6 households per acre scattered across north and northwest Evanston, in portions of the Ridge Avenue historic district and in a couple pockets further west and south in town.

Most of the rest of town has 4.6 to 8.5 households per acre and those areas are spread all across the city.

And about one eighth of town — or roughly one square mile — has 8.5 or more households per acre. That high-density housing is concentrated on the Northwestern University campus, in downtown Evanston and along Chicago and Ridge Avenues south of downtown.

Three caveats about the data.

First, it’s measured at the census block group — aggregating several blocks together. So some individual block variations are glossed over.

Second, the data is from the 2000 census, so it doesn’t capture new housing units added since then.

Third, it doesn’t count as households people living in group quarters — like those in university dormitories or nursing homes. That amounted to nearly 7,000 Evanston residents in 2000, or about 9 percent of the population.

What’s the average population density in town? Well, take the 29,651 occupied dwelling units in 2000, divide by 7.8 square miles of land area, divide again by 640 acres per square mile, and you end up with a shade under 6 households per acre.

For the most part the high-density new construction that’s taken place in Evanston since 2000 has happened in the parts of town that were already the most dense nearly a decade ago. Large swaths of town have seen little, if any, change in their housing density.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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