City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz plans to ask Evanston aldermen this evening to drop affordable housing from a list of the city’s top priority goals.

In a memo to the aldermen, Bobkiewicz says the city “has made significant progress” in the area and that the work “has been successfully folded into the city’s general operations.”

Thanks to an $18 million federal grant announced in December 2009, the city is in the midst of rehabbing 100 housing units for low and moderate income renters and buyers in two city census tracts.

And it’s just begun work on 32 units of new construction apartments for low and moderate income residents on Foster Street in what’s planned to be the first half of that development.

In addition, the collapse of the real estate bubble has dramatically reduced housing prices across the city so that, at least for those who can qualify for a mortgage loan, market-rate housing is substantially more affordable than it was before the market collapse five years ago.

Bobkiewicz also suggests that aldermen consider whether the goal of improving the “efficiency and effectiveness” of city services has been largely addressed by implementation of the 311 call center and his government transparency efforts.

But lest the list grow too short, the manager also suggests three possible new goals — addressing needs for programs for seniors, the Latino community and at-risk individuals and families.

The 11 other existing City Council goals are:

  • Economic Development
  • Capital Improvement Program Planning
  • Safety Issues
  • Youth Issues
  • Climate Action Plan
  • Development Services/Design Review
  • Innovation
  • Northwestern University
  • Police and Fire Pension Funding Issues
  • Robert Crown Center Improvements
  • Visual and Performing Arts

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Affordable Housing

    I would really like to know how "affordable" the apartments in the Amli development at Chicago & Kedzie will be.  The city hyped this development as being affordable housing for famllies.  Amli is marketing the development with banners such as "premier rental apartment homes". This sounds like a huge difference from "affordable".  Hopefully, the rental prices will be available soon.  It's too soon for this issue to be dropped from the list of top priorities of the City Council.  For example, I just had a 9.5% rent increase.  My little one bedroom apartment may not even be affordable for me in the near future!

    1. Affordable?

      Hi Lisa,

      I think you are confused about the AMLI project.

      It was never, as far as I can recall, promoted as being "affordable" housing. It's a market-rate development.

      But if you can find evidence that it was, please let us know.



    2. Housing Inequality from the other side

      If some of those who are pushing affordable housing [including city government] would move into some of the 'lower income' areas of the city, might that not attack the housing/wealth gap from the other side ?
      Yes if some of the north shore liberals, those pushing for affordable housing and government officials would move into some of the areas [not to pick on the areas and some are mixed] like south Custer, Callen, Clyde, Dodge, Foster/Darrow; property values would increase and make residents value increase when they sell, hopefully reduce crime and stigma from these areas.
      While aldermen can't move across their Wards, the Manager and other city hall staff can.  
      Think what it would mean to have those on the lake front and north of Lincoln move to some of these areas—a vote of confidence  and commitment.

  2. Affordable housing

    I agree with Lisa.  "Affordable" housing is a very broad concept, and almost all of the efforts that the City has made with their $18,000,000 investment have been directed at moderate incomes.  

    It is a sad truth about Evanston that even middle income people now have difficulty with rents and ownership opportunities in Evanston. But the City has done very little for low or very low income residents.  The handful of units that are currently planned, won't come close to offsetting the loss of Section 8 certificates that has occurred over the last decade.  

    If Evanston alderpeople are okay with simply declaring Evanston off bounds to low income people, then I would remove affordable housing as a focus.  But if they aren't okay with that, then it should remain a focus.


    1. How about “affordable taxes?”

      Maybe, just maybe the politicians will understand that if you have a good paying job, and you save, that over time, you can "afford" to buy a house or pay rent in Evanston. However with limited job opportunities, especially for those un or undereducated, and limited wage growth, yet taxes and fees keep going HIGHER, this makes affordable housing in Evanston more and more difficult.

      We can all pontificate and fantasize about a diverse Evanston community, but who is going to pay the bills? And who is going to control spending so that a diverse community can "afford" to live here? We say one thing, but we do the complete opposite. We say we want a diverse population from all perspectives, but when District 202, District 65 and the City of Evanston keep raising taxes and fees, they are DIRECTLY impacting the "affordability" factor that they and our beloved Jan Schakowsky claim to advocate for.


  3. We have done enough

    We have done enough regarding affordable housing. Some blocks of Central Street are clearly showing signs of progress in that respect. I applaud Bobkiewicz's decision.

  4. Wallys Goals

    Wally does not have the money for his goals – he keeps adding – it should be clear to every one – that he is using funds from other things to funded his goals.  /

    What ever happen to Robert Crown? The proposals are months old by now. It is apparent this went no where and we spent $200,000, on another study.

    Wally put capital planning as a goal, I have stated they have problem for several years now on this issue, it became more apparent at the mid year budget review when the city stated they spent 3 million on a 40 million dollar capital budget by mid year! Ofcourse with no planning you can keep on stealing funds, where did the funding come from for the emergency repairs on Central street?

    How about a goal to stop wasting money?

  5. affordable for a select few makes not affordable for everyone

    Raising taxes to make more affordable housing is a catch 22.   If you make some housing cheaper, then the rest of the tax payers have to pay more to not only cover the lost revenue from one unit, but also to subsidize the buildling/upkeep of said unit.

    We may help one or two lucky families, but what about all the rest who are struggling just to pay the current taxes and upkeep?

      I am in favor of ending this government policy of affordable housing- not because I don't want diversity, but because I am against taking money from people struggling to pay bills to give it to others for free. 

     If anyone feels very strongly about keeping rates cheaper for a few, perhaps they should open a private charity with this mission. A private charity won't tax everyone, it'll just take money from those willing and able to pay more money.


    1. Maybe use Obama tax policy for Evanston

      To provide the funds for affordable housing and other social needs the Council and apparently some citizens want, why not have an Evanston income tax for anyone making over $100,000, that can only be used for support of social causes like affordable housing, medical care for the poor, income support for the poor, etc..

      This would take the burden off those in Evanston who are barely surviving under the current property tax levels the city has.

      1. I love this idea, with a few caveats

        First, median household income in the US is about $51,000, so the Evanston tax should kick in at $51,000. Second, Obama has continued the Bush Doctrine on taxes and that is what is holding back the economy, so in order to reverse course, the tax needs to be at least 10% on any income in excess of $51,000. Tax revenues would go up and the enhanced government services would drive property values through the roof.

      2. Ludicrous

        Yes, tax those who make over 100,000!!! Brilliant, brilliant idea. How did you come up with this?

        Why not just withhold 10% of their pay so that lower-income families can live in Evanston?

        You must have spent time in Soviet Russia but even the Soviets did not go that far 🙂

        The beauty and madness of participatory democracy 🙂

        1. Re-distribution of wealth

          As you see from the video of the President when he was a Senator, he wants re-distribution of wealth. What better way for a city than to tax those over $100,000.

          Remember the way it was stated earlier "to each according to their need, from each according to their ability."   Surely the President wants it that way, so tax everyone.

          The President does love the poor—so much so he wants us all to be like them—so we can live in a world Rousseau dreamed of.  This was the choice the voters made in 2008 in the election and Evanston voters make every two years for the House.

      3. Bigger house, more taxes

        People who make more tend to buy bigger houses.   You'd be suprised at how many people who make more money are also struggling to pay their big tax bills in this town.

        Perhaps, we should eliminate all big houses and all live in communist-style cinder block homes?  That would definitely be more fair 

  6. City really never had a problem with affordable housing

    As I recall the measurement of affordable housing were well met, about 20% of the units were affordable in Evanston., by the affordable housing standards.  If there is such a problem, here as some would point out, why such a large number of people below the proverty level are living here, last time I looked about 7,000 in the census.  

  7. Evanston does have a problem with affordable housing

    But it's much bigger than lower income residents or lower middle income or even middle income.

    If you are looking for a house, as I am,  the taxes are just too big to swallow.   On a house of about $500,000 taxes are over $10,000 annually.   Look at Skokie and you can increase house size and decreas taxes.   Look to Wilmette and you can have a bit smaller footprint and fewer taxes.   Look at Glenview and you cut the taxes in half along with buying much more house for your money.

    I've got a kid with an IEP.   The amount of effort that's required on our end to get simply basic services is insane.    

    It's hard to justify buying in Evanston for me – the taxes doen't make any sense and the services are spare as well.

    I'd like to stay here, but find it harder and harder to absorb the taxes.

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