Evanston’s Reparations Subcommittee this morning agreed on the structure of a program that would give black residents who suffered housing discrimination as a result of city actions forgivable loans to buy homes in the city.

The program, which is expected to be sent to City Council for action after one more review by the subcommittee two weeks from now, would apply for the purchase of one-to-four unit residential buildings as well as townhouses and condominiums.

It would provide loans of up to $25,000 toward the purchase of such a property within the Evanston city limits to black residents who either themselves suffered discrimination in housing as a result of a city ordinance, policy or practice or who are direct relatives of a black resident of Evanston who suffered such discrimination during the period from 1919 to 1969.

The subcommittee chair, Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said she anticipates that the committee will develop a similar program for existing homeowners in need of repairs to their property over the next few months.

City staff had drafted the proposal with a $10,000 cap on the amount of each loan, but that was raised to $25,000 after Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggested that the lower amount wouldn’t be enough to provide significant help to would-be home buyers.

She added that she and Rue Simmons are working with a local bank to develop procedures for administering the loan program.

Under the proposal the loan would be gradually forgiven over a 10 year period for buyers who continued to live in the property. Any remaining balance of the loan would have to be repaid if the property was sold before the 10-year term expired.

An earlier version of the proposal, devleoped by Rue Simmons, would have limited the program to homes within the western portion of her ward, but after review by the city’s legal staff, it was expanded to cover the entire city.

Deputy City Attorney Nick Cummings said treating the funds as a loan rather than a grant would be more beneficial to the recipients because they would not have to pay state or federal income taxes on the money received. In addition, he said, if the money were provided as a grant it might raise the recipients income enough to disqualify them from other assistance programs they might be using to qualify for the home purchase.

Cumming said limiting the benefit of the program to persons who could demonstrate that they or their ancesters were the victims of discriminatory policies by the city regarding housing was necessary to have the program pass meet legal requirements and that the city couldn’t legally base its reparations program on discriminatory actions by other levels of government.

Cummings said city staff is still doing research to determine what city policies during the 1919-1969 period might qualify to demonstrate proof of discriminatory action by the city. “We’re still looking for additional resources to help understand the extent of the city’s complicity in the discrimination.”

The City Council has approved allocating up to $10 million over the next 10 years of income from the tax on legal cannabis sales to various reparations programs.

The subcommittee hopes to develop several different reparations programs and it was not entirely clear how much of the funds would be devoted to the home buyer’s program, although the members discussed an initial allocation of $400,000 to it and the home repair program combined.

The city is expected to start receiving revenue from local cannabis tax in October. It will be collected on cannabis sales starting next month.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Do a start over

    I don’t see how this stands legal scrutiny.  From Lake Forest College, digital history of Chicago:

    Racial restrictive covenants (RRCs) therefore, explicitly forbid the sale, transfer, or use of a property to/by a person of a specific racial/ethnic group. From the early twentieth century, RRCs were used to prevent mostly African Americans (but also Hispanic/Latino Americans, Asian Americans, Jewish Americans, and Middle-easterners) from purchasing or living in homes located in white neighborhoods or subdivisions covered by the covenants. While the earliest reported RRC dates to 1916, the first RRC in Cook County documented in this study appeared in Evanston in 1923, at the peak of the Great Migration.

    Why would the criteria only be for African Americans when so many other races were affected?

    1. Restrictive covenants

      Restrictve covenants were private agreements between the seller and buyers of land. They weren’t created or enforced by a municipality, and therefore they would not give rise to a claim for reparations as the Evanston proposal is currently drafted — since it only would apply to discriminatory actions regarding housing by the city.

      However, they were recorded by the county recorder of deeds and a private party could attempt to enforce them by filing suit in state courts.

      The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that they were legally unenforcable in 1948. And they were declared illegal by the federal Fair Housing  Act of 1968.

      — Bill


  2. Restrictive covenants

    Hi Bill–thanks for the clarification.

    From your article, this quote:  “…it  would provide loans of up to $25,000 toward the purchase of such a property within the Evanston city limits to black residents who either themselves suffered discrimination in housing as a result of a city ordinance, policy or practice or who are direct relatives of a black resident of Evanston who suffered such discrimination during the period from 1919 to 1969.

    Does “policty or practice” refer to the City of Evanston?  If so, what laws/codes were in place that restricted African Americans (and the specific code if possible) and when were they repealed or deemed obsolete?

    I tried looking up “Evanston Illegal Housing Restrictions” and “Evanston Discriminatory Practice” as this was referenced in Shorefront Journal but could find nothing in terms of Evanston city code or ordinances.

    The Daily Northwestern had a piece about segregation in Evanston, but it referenced the restrictive covenant–which included Asians, Hispanics, Jews, Middle Easterners–along with African Americans (from my previous comment).

    If there is no “City code or ordinance” that existed between 1919 and 1969 that discriminated against African Americans, wouldn’t that mean that no one is eligible for the loan program?

    This is precisely why reparations are a bad idea–it will be litigated, it will lose, it will waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars–think of the millions wasted litigating James Park!

    The marijuana tax money should be used in a color blind manner that benefits those that are in need.  This is what Martin Luther King would have wanted.

  3. Dr. King Supported Reparations

    Actually, Dr. King argued very strongly in favor of reparations to Black Americans, and asserted that we could not move to his “I Have a Dream” society until Black Americans were given the same economic advantage that the White European immigrants to this country received, by perfectly legal means via Acts of Congress.
    See Dr. King speaking about it here.

      1. Great read in The Atlantic!

        Thanks for that great read, Bill!  I see some good support in there for a range of viewpoints, so it strikes me that we should all probably refrain from invoking Dr. King or trying to co-opt his legacy when discussing our current state of affairs, lest it become a zero sum game.

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