Evanston’s Housing and Community Development Committee voted Tuesday night to recommend that the City Council increase the tax on demolishing residential buildings.

The tax is intended to fund affordable housing efforts by the city.

The fee for demolishing a single family detached home is now set at $15,000. But Community Development Director Sarah Flax said that, because of an inflation adjustment clause in the ordinance, it now actually stands at over $17,000.

The proposed ordinance would raise raise that fee to $20,000 and reset the clock on the inflation adjustments.

For multi-family buildings, the base tax, before the inflation adjustment, now is $15,000 or $5,000 for each unit, whichever is greater.

The new ordinance would increase that to $20,000 plus $4,000 for each additional unit between two and five, plus $7,500 for each additional unit beyond that.

That means the charge for tearing down a 12-unit building would rise from $60,000 to $92,300.

Demolition tax payments would be due at the time demolition permits are issued and are in addition to the demolition permit fee itself.

The amendment to the ordinance would maintain existing provisions that allow waiver of the fees for construction of affordable housing and exclude demolitions ordered by the city.

The increased taxes are unlikely to pay for much affordable housing.

The city’s 2023 budget indicates the demo tax raised $76,650 in 2020 and $15,453 in 2021. That suggests there were a total of six housing units demolished in that two-year period.

Most recent teardowns have occurred in the 6th and 7th wards, and the replacement homes have sold for well over $1 million.

The tax hike was recommended by the city’s Equity and Empowerment Commission and received a supporting referral last month from three council members, Bobby Burns (5th), Devon Reid (8th) and Juan Geracaris (9th).

Only one committee member raised any concerns about the proposal Tuesday night.

Hugo Rodriguez, a landlord, said that while he didn’t oppose the tax, the city should consider that a lot of the city’s housing stock is 100 or more years old and some of it needs to be demolished because of its poor condition.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Why is the Equity and Empowerment Commission involved in the setting of the fee for demolition licenses? This makes no sense at all except as a revenue grab to fund more wasteful and inefficient DEI programs.

    If we want to modernize our housing stock we should be reducing the demolition license fee not increasing it.

    Once again the tail is wagging the dog in Evanston.

  2. Regressive and hurts the poor most. How is it possible these people don’t understand economics?

    1. Take a look at Devon Reid’s academic accomplishments. He’s proud of them (or the lack thereof).

  3. I am so tired of hearing about Evanston’s affordable housing initiatives. Newsflash***The Evanston I know is not, nor has it ever been, “affordable”***. We live on a fresh water lake with amazing beaches to the east, easy access to I-94 to the west, amazing restaurants and an open-air music venue to the north, and numerous white-collar employment and cultural opportunities to the south in Chicago. (Unfortunately, we are also underwriting the tax avoidance and infrastructure costs of NU too which adds to the unaffordability). If you want to live in Evanston, it is going to be costly. If you cannot afford to live in Evanston, logic would suggest you live somewhere else. Stop trying to make your Evanston affordability dreams my problem.

    1. Agreed

      Affordable housing needs to be at scale – a scope no smaller than a county or cluster of counties. As do initiatives like a so-called Fair Work Week.

      The affordable housing scale starts somewhere with a Blue Island or Cal City, through a DesPlaines, Niles, Evanston to Kenilworth.

      Match your expectations to the reality of your drive, education and chosen field.

      My daughter – an early education teacher – found a house she and her hourly employee husband can afford in Lake County. As equity builds in their home through sweat and their labor, and their careers advance, more may be possible. Regardless, they are proud and happy with what they have achieved.

      Evanston’s leaders for the longest time, but no more so than today, have had a hard time sticking to the business of a town, vs a state or nation.

      Witness “nuclear free zone”.

      A virtue signal – and a misplaced one at that. Nuclear energy is the answer to clean affordable power.

  4. The idea of imposing tax on construction/demolition with the idea of preserving affordable housing has been discussed in Evanston and other places (https://evanstonnow.com/erecting-barriers-for-the-affluent/).

    I do not buy the idea that making construction more expensive is going to result in broadly more affordable housing. In fact it will make it even more expensive. But that begs the question,

    “What are we talking about when we talk about affordable housing?”

    While there are many in the community, and world, who say they are in favor of government policies that would make housing cost less, I think you would be hard pressed to find many who are in favor of policies that would make the value of their own houses go down. Well, if housing is going to cost less then someone’s house price has to go down. That leads me to believe that we don’t really want housing to be affordable generally. It seems to me that what is favored are subsidies for one-off projects to construct housing that is rented or sold below market rate.

    I don’t think that is a bad idea, but I doubt it will have any measurable impact on equity. My concern with the demolition tax increase is the effect it may have on reducing property development in moderately priced areas which could really benefit from having more housing.

  5. Yes, Paul, If we want to modernize our housing stock we should be reducing the demolition license fee … not increasing it. Econ 101.

  6. It seems to me that if you truly support affordable housing, you should be reducing barriers to real estate development. How could knocking down a dilapidated property and building a multi-family development be seen as anything other than positive? Why would we be imposing a tax that inhibits this process?

  7. What about life, liberty, and property? We all accept limitations for the common good, but the proponents aren’t close to making a compelling case why property rights should be curtailed.

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