Evanston’s Housing and Community Development Committee decided Tuesday night that landlords with up to 35 apartment units in three generally low-income census tracts should be eligible for a COVID-related city financial assistance program.

The program, proposed by the Small Landlord Taskforce to be funded by a $500,000 allocation from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act grant, would offer landlords reimbursement of up to 75% of the increase in reported losses on their 2021 business tax return compared to the prior year, capped at either $12,000 or $15,000.

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered financial losses for many landlords when tenants thrown out of work by pandemic-related shutdowns failed to pay their rent.

City staff concluded that limiting the aid to properties in census tracts 8092, 8102 and 8103.01 would give the program the greatest impact in maintaining the city’s supply of affordable rental housing.

A city staff analysis of rental registration data indicates that there are about 3,100 rental units in those census tracts, with ownership distributed as follows:

Units ownedIndividualsCorporate entitiesTotal landlords

Committee member Hugo Rodriguez argued that the city should focus on helping the smallest landlords, because losing half the income from a two-unit building would be much more devastating than losing income from one unit out of a portfolio of 30 apartments.

But Committee member Loren Berlin argued that a person who only owned a two-unit building likely had another job to supplement his or her income, while a landlord who had a couple dozen units likely did not have another income source.

A survey the city conducted last summer indicated about 20% of Evanston landlords had a loss of net rental income during the pandemic averaging just under $7,000 per landlord.

If that loss average matched funding requests ultimately submitted under the program, after adjusting for the 75% reimbursement cap, the program might be able to aid about 95 landlords.

Ultimately, on a motion by Ald. Devon Reid (8th), the committee voted to extend the program to landlords with up to 35 apartment units.

The design of the program still requires City Council approval.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. I am confused. Covid is hard in different ways on all of us.

    Why do real estate investors who are already advantaged by the tax code need more support from the taxpayer?

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