City Council’s decision to shrink the height of a new affordable housing development in Evanston has added 32% to the per-unit cost of the project.

In January a city committee approved $4 million in city support for what was then scheduled to be a $22 million project to create 44 housing units at a cost-per-unit of $500,159.

But fierce opposition from neighbors of the project at 1811-1815 Church St. led the Council to reduce the size of the development from five to four stories and the number of housing units from 44 to 33.

A rendering of the rejected, five-story version of the HODC development.

And this week the Council approved $4 million in aid to what’s now a $21.8 million project — at a cost-per-unit of $659,808.

Beyond the city funds, most of the money for the project is coming from federal low income housing tax credits.

Richard Koenig, executive director of the non-profit developer of the project, the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation, says the minimal cost difference for the smaller project is largely the result of city requirements for commercial space and parking on the ground level of the building.

Neighbors opposed to the project had also complained that even the original version of the affordable housing development was going to cost more per unit than market-rate projects.

It turns out that the HODC project is not an anomaly in that regard.

Chicago Business reported this week that per-unit costs for nine new affordable housing developments in Chicago’s Invest South/West program averaged $653,000, “far more than the most expensive luxury apartment towers in Chicago.”

Downtown Chicago high-rises typically cost $450,000 to $500,000 per unit to build, the paper says.

The 44-unit version of the HODC development would have been at the high end of that market-rate cost range. The 33-unit version is prices just slightly above the average per-unit cost for the nine affordable projects in Chicago cited by Chicago Business.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. I had thought that subsidized affordable housing was only financially feasible in neighborhoods where the land was not too costly. I admit that I scoffed at those who asserted that affordable housing should be spread to more neighborhoods before building at this location. It sounded to me like a false narrative to support NIMBYism.

    But this report makes me question my prior belief. Every ward in Evanston has residential units which can be purchased for under $660k. If a house or apartment costs that much can be subsized to a level that it can be used to meet affordable housing requirements, then it would seem Evanston could have more of it anywhere in town, and would not always have to build new to get it.

  2. I absolutely agree but any installation of subsidized housing would need to get the support of immediate neighbors. Perhaps this sounds impossible but in ultra-liberally conscious Evanston it might not be as difficult as it sounds.

    1. This specific building did not have support from immediate neighbors within 500 feet of the proposal! Is been pushed on us.
      5th Ward has a lot of rentals and affordable housing in it. What we want is commercial space and more homeowners in the area!

      1. @XC. Do you know of any cases of proposal to develop residential units or commercial property in that neighborhood that did not get strong pushback from neighbors?
        I have heard people say they want certain amenities, but I cannot recall a proposal to actually develop property that did not meet resistance.

    2. I don’t know how much immediate neighbor support there is for this particular project. Maybe there was some, but there definitely was very vocal opposition from several people who owned property in the neighborhood.

      What I wonder is if affordable housing has to be part of new construction. Can someone buy a condo unit for a lot less that $660k and then rent it out below market rate and get subsidies from various government agencies for making affordable housing available. It seems to me that is a much more efficient way to deliver below market housing to the community than construction new buildings.

      For less than 660k one could get units with better access to mass transit that there is at Church & Darrow.

      1. Agreed this happens to be an argument that we used. They have brand new construction condos and bigger in Lincoln park selling for under $300,000

  3. There has been resistance from several property owners in the immediate area, but it is worth noting that the renters residing there are supportive of this project due to the potential benefits they stand to gain. To address the concerns raised by neighbors, I have successful at making adjustments. These include reducing the building’s height, preserving ground floor retail spaces, establishing an on-site property manager, and taking steps to alleviate traffic congestion issues by addressing the root cause, namely making changes at the intersection of Church and Dodge.

    It is important to acknowledge that while the Fifth Ward does offer some affordable housing units, the current supply is insufficient to meet the demand. Moreover, much of the existing affordable housing consists of older buildings with smaller units. The project we are advocating for aims to provide brand new affordable housing with standard unit sizes, offering a valuable addition to the community. I’m always happy to speak with anyone further about this development. You can reach me at or by phone (224) 714-2184

    Councilmember Burns
    5th Ward, City of Evanston

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