Over a decade and a half, and through several revisions, Evanston’s inclusionary housing ordinance is on track to directly produce nearly 100 units of affordable housing.
It’s also generated nearly $4.4 million in fees for other affordable housing efforts in the city from projects approved since 2013.
An Evanston Now analysis of city reports and planned development documents shows that the ordinance has generated 66 completed affordable housing units so far. Another 22 units will be delivered in projects already under construction, and 10 more have been approved in one project that has not yet broken ground.
When originally approved in 2007, the IHO applied only to new condominium developments. They were all the rage at the time, but fell out of favor almost immediately when the housing market collapsed.
The original ordinance required a $4,000 per unit contribution to the affordable housing fund — or making a tenth of the units in a new development affordable.
After the new-construction rental housing market started to boom around 2013, the Council amended the ordinance in late 2015 to raise the penalty fees, if a tenth of the units were not affordable, to between $7,500 and $10,000 per unit.
At the time of the council vote, then Community Development Director Mark Muenzer estimated that 2,500 new housing units would be created in Evanston over the next five years and that the ordinance would lead to the inclusion of 250 subsidized units in that count.
In reality, Muenzer’s prediction proved wildly optimistic. Only 988 new housing units were created in planned developments by 2020. They included just 40 subsidized units created under the IHO.
Despite the tapering off of developer interest, the Council adopted further revisions to the ordinance in 2018.
Those changes for the first time required that developers of rental housing to provide at least half of their subsidized units on site, gave height and density bonus incentives for doing that, and even larger incentives if they provided all the affordable units on site.
The 2018 amendments also raised the fee-in-lieu payments for rental developments to $17,500 per unit downtown and $15,000 elsewhere. For condo developments the per-unit fee-in-lieu payment was boosted to $26,250 downtown and $22,500 elsewhere.
The latest version of the ordinance has assured that if there is new development, at least some of the units produced will be affordable.
It’s more difficult to tell whether it has adversely impacted the overall production of new housing in town.