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New U.S. Census Buread data shows the decade just ended has seen the population of Evanston decline by half a percentage point — proportionately more than the decline in Cook County but less than that of Illinois as a whole.

The population decline in Evanston would have been far greater — likely more than 3.5% — but for the completion of more than 1,554 new housing units in planned developments mostly downtown and along the city’s transportation corridors.

For the most part those new developments came without the destruction of any existing housing.

In Chicago, where the population is still up slightly for the decade though it’s declined for the past four years, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has announced a 10-year economic development plan designed to bring new high-quality jobs to the city and end the exodus of residents, especially from the city’s south and west sides.

Part of the goal, she’s said, is to rebuild Chicago’s population from its current 2.7 million to the 3 million level it had in 1980. (That would still be far below Chicago’s peak population of 3.6 million in 1960.)

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has announced a five-year plan for the state that also calls for economic development efforts designed to create better jobs and stem the state’s population loss.

Those officials see shrinking population locally while the population of the nation as a whole continues to grow as a threat to the political influence of Illinois in national politics as well as an economic challenge.

Evanston’s population peaked at just under 80,000 people in 1970, declined sharply to under 74,000 by 1980, and has been in a narrow range between 74,000 and 75,000 since 2000.

What do you think?

Should Evanston welcome more new residents or be content to see its population drop?

Do we need stronger economic development policies — and what would they call for?

Should the city encourage building more two- or three-flats and accessory dwelling units in what until now have been single-family zones to create more — and perhaps more affordable — housing?

Related stories

Hazy forecast for big development beyond 2020 (12/30/19)

Luxury rentals haven’t replaced affordable housing here (10/13/17)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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