Evanston aldermen voted 7 – 1 tonight to continue efforts to develop an inclusionary housing program for the city.

The aldermen worked through provisions of the draft ordinance – reducing the size of the affordable component to 10 percent of all units from the 15 percent level suggested a few weeks ago and deciding to permit affordable units to have less plush interior finishes than market rate units.

But they ultimatedly decided the ordinance needed more polishing by city staff before they could vote to adopt it. The aldermen are scheduled to continue the inclusionary housing debate with a revised draft ordinance at their June 26 meeting.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, said, “It’s conceivable this ordinance will not work in this community as it has elsewhere, with interest rates rates rising and developers rethinking all their projects, unless we give the developers help in terms of parking relief or greater density.”

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, who has opposed using a “toolbox” of developer incentives in the past, was not at the meeting, and in her absense several aldermen suggested some sort of toolbox of incentives would be required to make an inclusionary housing plan work.

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said the ordinance should provide that affordable units would remain in the affordable housing pool for as long as possible, not the 15 years suggested in a draft ordinance.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, opposed moving forward with the ordinance, saying she sees several flaws with it.

She said including rental housing and condo conversions in a inclusionary housing program, which the city’s legal staff has said would likely be required under constitutional equal protection guarantees, would kill the condo conversion market and make it impossible to revive the nearly moribund market for new rental housing.

She also suggested that the working families with children who are seen as the main beneficiaries of the inclusionary housing program would not be interested in living in the high-rise condominiums that form most of the new housing being built in town.

And she said the current ordinance draft fails to address serious and potentially expensive issues of how the city will administer the program.

Alderman Delores Holmes supported moving forward with the ordinance but noted that with a required income threshhold for the program of about 80 percent of the metro areas median household income – now $78,000 for a family of four – the program will not be able to reach the working poor.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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