Evanston’s Housing and Homelessness Commission heard about a new strategy for increasing affordable rental housing in the community at its meeting Thursday evening.

Stacie Young of the Chicago-based Community Investment Corporation said the organization has developed what it’s calling an Opportunity Investment Program to create and preserve affordable rental housing in strong markets, like Evanston.

Young said CIC is raising $25 million from federal and private sources to subsidize interest costs on funds that private or non-profit developers could use to acquire existing rental buildings, in return for a pledge to keep at least 20 percent of the units affordable for at least 15 years by qualifying the developments for project-based housing vouchers administred by the Housing Authority of Cook County.

She said that in a situation where a developer might typically borrow 80 percent of a building’s purchase price from a bank, CIC could loan an additional 10 percent of the price at a below-market interest rate, to reduce the developer’s up-front investment cost to 10 percent of the total price.

She said that studies show that using housing vouchers in areas of concentrated poverty is less effective in helping tenants escape poverty because of negative impacts from the depressed communities. But without programs like the one CIC has developed, its difficult to get property owners in more desirable neighborhoods interested in participating in the voucher program, which pays market-level rents.

Young said both for-profit and not-for-profit developers could participate in the program, and she suggested that to further assist cash-strapped not-for-profits the city might want to provide a a grant or loan for an additional five percent of the purchase price of a property.

That, she said, would let the city generate an additional affordable housing unit for a net cost to the city of perhaps $50,000 — far less than subsidies required to create subsidized units in new construction developments.

Members of the commission seemed receptive to the idea, but no immediate action was taken on the proposal.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Try the new affordable housing approach along the lakefront

    I thought the Evanston city manager said publicly that affordable housing is no longer a priority since Evanston has more of its share of affordable housing, compared to neighboring cities.

    Consider that the federal goverment gave Evanston an $18 million grant to stabilize two neighborhoods that produced numerous rental buildings and the new Emerson Square as affordable housing properties.

    That's not to mention other afforable housing non profits, about a dozen or so, that operate in Evanston.

    How about for once focusing on the middle class property owners in Evanston. Help us out on our mortgages and the consistent rising property taxes. Is there even a middle class left in Evanston? Are there any decent jobs available in Evanston other than goverment jobs and Northwestern? 

    On second thought, maybe affordable housing is needed along the lakeshore, east of Chicago and Sheridan, in the 1st, 3rd and 7th wards. That way, the hardworking folks who cut lawns, clean houses and watch children can live among their clients. It's a win win, eh?

    1. Will never happen

      because it makes sense to everyone except the city council and their personal friends.

    2. so-called middle class
      I know a lot of so-called middle class people with decent jobs….(including myself), and none of us could ever afford to live in Evanston. That’s a well-known fact and the rental rates are about 30% higher than the other surrounding burbs, and taxes are a real deal-killer. It is clearly not an affordable city…only to those who can afford it….lol

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