“If you vote for this project, you’re voting for each and every one of us to be ruined,” landlord Radica Sutz told Land Use Commission members Wednesday night.

Sutz, who says she’s owned a four-unit building at 1810-1812 Darrow Ave. for 20 years, called the 44-unit, five-story apartment building proposed by the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation “another major trauma that’s been introduced to our neighborhood.”

“It’s cruel to cluster such a number of people in poverty in one spot,” she said.

Todd Smith of 1920 Asbury Ave., said he owns rental property near the proposed development at 1811-1815 Church St.

Smith said he supports affordable housing, but asked “why does it all have to be in the 5th Ward?”

An Evanston Now analysis of the distribution of subsidized affordable rental housing units in Evanston indicates that such housing is not equally distributed across the city and that the 5th Ward does have the highest number of such units, although the 1st and 4th wards also have many subsidized apartments.

The units included in the tally range from large senior housing developments to small scattered site developments. They do not include tenant-based housing vouchers accepted by private landlords.

(It should be noted that we have so far been unable to establish the location of about 100 additional subsidized rental units that are believed to exist in the city.)

The landlords were joined by some single-family homeowners in objecting to the proposed development.

Kenya Reza.

Kenya Reza of 1722 Darrow Ave. said she was concerned about all the traffic and cars she believed would be generated by the project. And she said affordable rentals in the neighborhood had been the source of many police calls and other problems in recent years.

But other residents favored the plan.

John e. Fuller.

John E. Fuller, of 1569 Dodge Ave., said the vacant lot at the corner of Darrow Avenue and Church Street “has looked the same for at least four decades” and that building affordable housing would “get something done that’s very positive for the ward.”

And Willie Shaw, of 700 Mulford St., said the city needs more affordable housing so that economically stressed long-time residents can stay in the city.

After hearing roughly three hours of testimony on the proposed development, the Land Use Commission voted to continue the issue until its next meeting on Feb. 22 at which it plans to take a vote after getting details about recent revisions to the building’s design.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. What a backwards and selfish perspective from the landlords and single family homeowners. This country and our city needs more housing, but they’d rather have an empty lot? And the line about more police calls for rental properties is just a blatant dog whistle.

    1. I think it’s more about equity by having these affordable unit buildings spread more evenly across all of the wards. There’s a huge gap between the number of units in the 5th Ward and those in the 7th Ward and that’s not a surprise to me. I live in the 9th Ward and it’s on the low end of the chart also. I recall going to a meeting at the Y a few years ago about affordable housing in Evanston and was told that the lack of affordable housing units in some wards (like the 7th) has to do with zoning issues. Yeah, okay.

      1. I think the real answer is the lack of affordable land sites in the 7th ward. The last contiguous site went to a luxury home developer that has built $1MM+ homes.
        Unless someone is willing to donate a site it is very difficult to make the math work on a development when you’re paying over $500K/acre

  2. I think property owners, both owner occupants and landlords, often oppose new construction which they see as a threat to the value of their investment, IMO. At least that is a big part of it; I think character of the neighborhood is sometime genuine, especially when high-rise residential buildings were seeking approval.

    The stated reasons are usually traffic and “character of the neighborhood”. The challenge is the people who would benefit living in the new units are not here yet to turn out in support of them being built, while the current owners are here.

    IMO, the *idea* of making housing cost less is popular, but there is no owner who wants to support their property’s market price go down.

    I agree with John Fuller. I hope it gets built. As for affordable housing more broadly, it does not help that the city has a long and costly process that builders have to go through to build anything at all.

    1. I’m generally in favor of development, but my preference is for the development to not be dependent on public financing.

      I wonder if a developer would’ve been willing to build on the site without government assistance if they were allowed to charge market rates.

    2. But that’s is the ruse skeptic. The affordable housing is supposed to be for Evanstonians who are being priced out. However it’s not entirely. And around 30% of housing in Evanston is “Affordable”. We are crushing CHI and all the surrounding surrounding suburbs in this category. What % are we trying to get to? Also let’s stop sanitizing the terminology, when we say affordable we mean low income. Furthermore, building housing in general needs to happen and that includes high rises which bring tax base and are a helluva a lot more efficient then the nice safely single family zoned areas of Evanston that will NEVER have to deal with fallout that comes from stuffing all the low income housing into just a few wards.

  3. We are a city of neighborhoods. We need to pay more attention to the views of those neighbors immediately impacted by the issue.

      1. Name-calling is always the tactic of choice, isn’t it? I’m wondering if Yimby is a renter or property owner?

  4. The 5th Ward does not look or feel like Evanston. I live here. We can’t let our kids play in the back yard by themselves much less the front. Five year ago it felt like living in the worst neighborhood in Chicago. I still have bullet holes in my home and garage that were caused by tenants from affordable house. Do not tell us what we need, when your ward doesn’t have any affordable housing. Look at your community and ask yourself, where in my ward is affordable housing needed? 5th ward is not Evanston’s dumping ground anymore.

    I would like my ward to have, bakery, banks, library, flower shop, ice cream store. We need what every ward has, safety and places to take our family.

    1. “I would like my ward to have, bakery, banks, library, flower shop, ice cream store. We need what every ward has, safety and places to take our family.” -> 100%.

      I did not realize how classist Evanston is until fairly recently. No non-rich ward should be used as a dumping ground for anything.

  5. @Marcus P. I hear you. I once lived in a bad area of Chicago that had the same lack of amenities that you cite. It is difficult in Evanston to develop property — even when it is not in use, because it almost always requires variances from city code to be financially viable. A few years ago an investor wanted to build a 44 unit building at Emerson and Jackson. About the same time the 5th ward alderman wanted to see a full service grocery store put in at a block west where Fatzee’s is now so to provide good food at a place people could walk to. Those two things go together. A grocery store needs customers and there would be 44 new households withing walking distance. But there was significant opposition at a meeting between the developer and the neighbors. So the developer backed out and that property is still vacant today.
    In 2017 someone wanted to invest in fixing up a vacant building on Simpson to open a restaurant, and this was supported by the 5th ward alderman. However there was vociferous opposition from neighbors including former 5th ward alderman Delores Holmes. (https://evanstonnow.com/split-emerges-over-simpson-restaurant-plan/)
    Not to pick on the 5th ward. Opposition to building on unused land happens all over Evanston.

    These stories call into question whether or not Evanston will grant necessary permits and zoning variances needed for private investment in that area of the 5th and 2nd wards. If not then it is either investment with a public component, or none at all.

    1. I would be ok with condo or townhouse. I’m not ok with 44 units that’s gonna cost $500,000 each to build. The $22 million can do a lot more than clustering poverty with more poverty.

      1. I mostly agree with you. Evanston has some vocal citizens who lobby city government to block development. Sometimes they get their way. I have no doubt that if the person who wants to build on this site wanted to have market rate new apartments built without any public aid there would also be strong opposition.

        While a subsidized housing project may or may not be the best used of that empty lot, I think it is better to build something than nothing, and we have to accept constraints that are the will of the people on what will allowed to get built.

        I don’t buy that affordable housing equates to poverty, but I could be wrong. I am sorry that you have had bullets hit your property, but I doubt that most of the shooting going in in that area is attributable to residents of subsidized housing. If there was a proposal to build that unit near where I live and also near other buildings that were at least three stories, then I would be fine with it.

  6. Modernized redlining
    Why is 5th ward being used as a dumping zone for affordable housing!!! They say we need affordable housing but yet 5th ward has the highest by far. Why isn’t there any affordable housing in the 6th ward, why is there little to none in the 2nd, 3rd, 7th and 9th ward? Don’t tell us we need affordable housing when other areas don’t have any! Don’t tell me is because of zoning restrictions this building has 17 zoning changes it needs for it to meet requirements! You clustering minorities into one area, you think we don’t want to live in the areas that don’t have affordable housing, we do but guess what minorities can’t afford to live there!

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