Neighbors of a proposed 16-unit low income housing complex on the northeast corner of Dempster Street and Pitner Avenue raised a range of objections to the project at a community meeting Tuesday night.

About 60 people turned out for the meeting, held at the Erie Family Health Center.

Jacqueline Coker.

Jacqueline Coker of 1220 Pitner Ave., complained that residents of the subsidized units would be “paying 10 times less” than people who owned homes in the neighborhood.

She suggested that transportation options were very limited in the area and asked why the project couldn’t be built in downtown Evanston instead where there are more transportation options and better amenities.

John Fuller.

NAACP branch Vice President John Fuller complained about the R5 zoning of the parcel fronting Dempster Street that permits the higher-desnity residential development, compared to the R2 zoning in most of the rest of the area.

Sarah Flax, the city’s grants administrator, responded that the R5 zoning had been in place since the 1960s, when substantial parts of town were rezoned in anticipation of more intense development that didn’t always happen.

Several other residents complained that they were having sewer backups at their homes and said they worried about whether utility services in the area were adequate for the project.

Britt Shawver

Britt Shawver, head of Housing Opportunities for Women, the developer of the three-story project, said it would provide eight one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom apartments and have parking for 16 cars.

The main entrance to the building would off the parking lot and would face toward the alley east of the building, rather than either of the two streets the proprty fronts.

She said the goal of the project would be to provide housing for families already living in Evanston who have encountered financial difficulties dealing with the high cost of living here. Families making between 30 and 50 percent of the median area income would qualify to live in the development.

Residents listening to speakers at the meeting.

City officials said that a parking study indicated that roughly half the on-street parking spots in the 1300 block of Pitner were open during the times checked. But residents said the study didn’t capture the parking congestion late in the evening after residents have returned home from work.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, whose 2nd Ward includes the development site, urged the residents not to make assumptions that the low-income occupants of the development would cause trouble.

“These will be Evanston residents,” he said, “They won’t be coming off the street or from the south side.”

And Braithwaite noted that when he was younger, he and his family had lived in an affordable housing apartment in Evanston.

HOW has applied for a state grant that would cover much of the cost of the project and is expected to seek additional funding from the city.

With the R5 zoning of the parcel, the project can be built as-of-right under the zoning code, but the city funding request will require City Council approval.

Related story

Affordable housing planned on Dempster (3/17/17)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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