Here’s a recap of our live coverage of this evening’s Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to begin about 7:20 p.m.

A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 7:22 p.m.

Minutes approved.

P 1 – Amendments to inclusionary housing ordinance

Grover moves, Tendam seconds.

Sarah Flax, housing and grants administrator, says there’s been a dramatic decline in affordable housing, especially rental housing, in Evanston.

Says study shows number of affordable housing units declined by 40 percent (3,300 units) from 2004 to 2013. (That’s for-sale units affordable to people earning 80 percent of median income and 60 percent of median income for rental housing.)

(Although some of the decline was as a result of conversions to condos, most resulted from increases in rent at units that remained available as rentals.)

In response to question from Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says NU students wouldn’t be eligible — except perhaps for graduate students who were 24 years old and financially independent.

Flax says incomes are stagnating or falling, but housing costs haven’t.

Flax says number of available rental units decreased because of condo conversions — and then with real estate market collapse more people were looking for rental housing.

Says over 38 percent of families in Evanston are spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing.

Says constructed 2,000 new housing units here since 2000, but none were affordable.

Ordinance would make several changes to existing rules — as outlined here.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says he thinks the intention of the ordinance is something city should be striving for — but concerned who’s going to bear the cost of the affordable unit.

Says the other nine units will bear the cost. The person doing the development isn’t going to take less profit.

So the problem, he says, is that the proposed solution focuses the burden on the neighbors in the development — who probably aren’t that far off from the affordable boundary anyway.

Says it amounts to a seven or eight percent tax.

People who live in existing housing won’t be the ones to pay for it.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, asked about NSP2 program. Flax says it was a stabilization program, not a affordable housing program. Says all the for-sale units went to people with 100% to 120% of area median income.

(Rental unit income levels were less.)

Says overall NSP2 created 116 housing units.

Says 70 percent of residents of NSP2 units either already lived in or worked in Evanston.

Rainey says NSP2 helped.

Fiske says has heard developers say that if have to do affordable units won’t be able to get financing.

Flax says developers do it in some other communities. Says ordinance would also let developers make alternate proposals to the city, including providing fewer affordable units.

Citizen comment

Brendan Sanders, director of Open Communities (the group formerly known as the Interfaith Housing Center), says there is high need for affordable housing.

Says development is going to happen in Evanston, regardless.

Paul Selden, 1235 Maple Ave., and executive director of Connections for the Homeless, says inclusionary zoning is needed in Evanston. Says too many long time residents are getting priced out of their homes and apartments.

Says amount of new affordable housing for those 65 and over in Evanston in last 10 years is zero.

Says 7.5 percent of students in District 65 schools are homeless.

Says the proposed ordinance does put burden on developer. Could relieve that with density bonuses or reductions in parking (“Never happen” injects Alderman Rainey).

Says inclusionary zoning won’t solve the problems but is a step in the right direction –says we value diversity and all the people who live in our community.

Suzanne Calder, 1509 Asbury, on behalf of League of Women Voters, says the league supports the proposed ordinance.

Sue Loellbach, of Connections for the Homeless, also speaks in favor of the ordinance.

Says affordable housing does not cost communities, but strengthens their viability.

End of Citizen Comment

Alderman Rainey says the proposal focuses on new housing –both rental and housing conversion. Asks what if nothing is built?

Says one project is coming to council tonight — says doesn’t see many other large projects possible.

Says concerned about people paying too much in rent or mortgage payments now — people who are living here now.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, one thing really concerns me, he says, is the seniors in the community — should be making an all out effort to retain them.

Says older people now saying they can’t stay here on a fixed income.

Says would support bonuses for developers, work with them. We’re not trying to work against them, he said.

Says have been talking about it for a long time and it’s time to walk the walk.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says thanks for bringing up the North Shore Hotel. Says have seen someone come in and rehab a bldg in desperate need of rehab, rather than be turned into something that none of us really wanted.

In the process most of the tenants have found the new rents unaffordable and have left.

So that means if we assess a fine, it won’t be picked up by the developer — it will be picked up by the other tenants.

I’m going to have to think this through more, she says.

Says know a lot of people in that building hated to leave Evanston. But can’t expect a developer to come in and not pass along those costs.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, says there may be more room to put accomodations in that would make it more palatable for devleoper. What kind of return is reasonable for a developer? Says we don’t have standards yet for that. Don’t know what standard for reasonable return is in other communities.

Want to know whether it’s stifled development. Has Highland Park become unattractive for development?

Says it’s a really important piece of legislation for us to look at. Thanks the advocates.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says the easy solution tends to be punishing people. That’s largely what this amounts to, he says.

What that does is push the cost down to the wrong people — people who also cannot afford to bear the cost — would bear 100% of the cost.

This isn’t a community-wide program.

If its a 100 unit buiding, it’s the other 90 units that will have to pay.

But the point of promoting housing is very important. Should instead focus on the incentive process …density, zoning … i won’t say parking, he says. 

So developer can go to bank and say this is a good deal.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, says couldn’t afford to live in Evanston if didn’t already own home. Has friends who have many issues. Shares concern with Tendam about seniors.

Says is supportive of any kind of incentives that could give. But think has to be some way to get message to developers that we want to have affordable units throughout the City of Evanston.

Says she’s happy with 10 percent –don’t have to move it up to 20 percent. But wants new affordable units.

Says Evanston looks a little more white and a little richer every days. If want to pretend to be diverse can, but need to take action on affordable housing.

Rainey says concerned about lack of new development. What affect do the amendments have on current housing, she asks?

Flax says the ordinance doesn’t address that.

Rainey says we’re talking about keeping people where who are here now — but this does nothing to help them.

Know Paul Selden wants to house everybody, but I only care about helping people who are right here right now. But we don’t have the wherewithall to help people who are here right now with those amendments.

We can’t subsidize everybody’s rent, not the proper function of municipal government, she says.

We had all these committees working on this, she says.

Says the next developer could be four or five years away (given that the Main and Chicago project has been in the works for four years.

If you don’t have developers building housing you can’t provide additional housing for people, Rainey says.

Tendam says the condo conversion proposal could address. Have two or three rental buildings going up and they could end up being converted to condos … AMLI, Central Station and E2.

Rainey…couldn’t disagree with you more

Grover wants to address current problem and thinking ahead to the future. Says doesn’t want to find selves regretting years from now that could have done something.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says its a critical issue. The tumultuous economic times. See wage stagnation and housing prices increasing and people can’t move on into ownership and staying in rentals.

Says need to hear from all the stakeholders on what is feasible. Sees alderman Wlson’s point and that’s an obstacle that’s too big to get through now.

Says doesn’t hear the development community’s voice here. Not that I’ve ever been known as a friend of developers. But need to know how this will work for them.

One of the problems — we haven’t had condo buildings built — five year freeze — another effect of the great recession.

Rainey suggests establishing a subcommittee only of council members to bring together developers and the housing organizations.

Holmes says agrees wants a subcommittee.

Rainey suggests date certain of second council meeting of September.

Grover agrees to amend her motion to introduce it, to introduce and refer to the proposed subcommittee.

Rainey says wants it to be a subcommittee just of aldermen, composition to be determined at next Rules Committee meeting.

Committee approved that motion.

P2 – Notice requirements for zoning applications

Approved.

P3 – Special use for scoreboards at Ryan Field

(and suspension of the rules to give it final approval tonight)

Approved.

P4 – Zoning regulations for neighborhood gardens, etc.

Approved.

P5 – Church Street Village planned development three year extention

Approved.

Communications

Board and committee improvement process

(Details in packet) 

Meeting adjourned at 8:34 p.m.

City Council meeting to start about 8:45 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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