Evanston aldermen Monday debated whether the city should continue to partner with developers on individual affordable housing projects in a soft condo market.

241 Callan Ave.
241 Callan Ave.
The issue arose as the aldermen discussed a request for $300,000 in city funds to subsidize renovation of a half-century-old, five-unit apartment building at 241 Callan Ave.

The for-profit developer of the project, Econ Development Corporation, headed by Cornelius Davidson of Skokie, wants the money to subsidize purchase of three of the five units by moderate income families.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, whose 8th Ward includes the building, said many equivalent two-bedroom market-rate condos are available for sale in the city now at less than the $285,000 unsubsidized price Davidson is proposing.

She said the city would make better use of its money by providing subsidies directly to would-be buyers who could apply them to units they located anywhere in town.

“There are plenty of places on the market now in established neighborhoods that people could be going out and shopping for,” Rainey said. “Instead we’re saying, ‘You want an affordable house? You’ve gotta live here, in this building.’”

The city’s community development staff has recommended against funding the project, saying the requested subsidy amount and the proposed selling prices of the units are too high.

The city has repeatedly faced problems when housing projects have run over budget and developers have come back the the council, hat in hand, asking for additional funds.

But Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said, “Mr. Davidsion has consistently worked hard for an awfully long time to produce affordable housing.” Moran proposed giving the developer a $275,000 subsidy.

The aldermen plan to continue debate on the proposal at their Feb. 11 meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Should City Take Housing Market Risk: The Answer Revealed
    No. Ann Rainey’s comment is right on the money. The City should make available funds for some moderate income families to purchase homes in the city wherever they choose. Note that I said some money — not $300,000.

    The Council (led by Eb Moran) must stop these handouts to for-profit developers. The staff recommended against it so there is little or no merit to the proposal. There is a housing glut. There are already homes available in the price range planned by this developer. Where is the merit in this proposal?

    Here’s the merit…Mr. Moran wants another award from an affordable housing organization. Here’s his nomination for this year.

    Please, Mr. Moran, go to a course to learn to say “no” to your pet projects and your developer friends. The rest of us in Evanston are getting tired of paying the bills for your misguided and completely self-centered “charity.” I suggest that if you want to invest $275,000 with this developer, write a check from your personal account…not the taxpayers’ account.

    Better yet, Mr. Moran, raise funds to purchase a property on your block and make it available for a moderate income family to purchase. I understand that there is little or no moderate income housing in your ward. It’s that walk the walk thing. Right now, it’s talk and everyone else’s money.

  2. Objectives unclear for affordable housing
    I think the “affordable housing” issue is being confused. Is the purpose of this money to offer support to homebuyers of modest income, or is it to offer developers incentive to renovate buildings in economically depressed areas? I agree with the first comment: there is plenty of development happening without incentives in all areas; it doesn’t seem to need a boost.

    Keep in mind that we already offer support to first-time homebuyers in Evanston; there is a low-cost, low-down payment mortgage program, which is a joint program between local banks and the city.

  3. Better to err on the side of caution
    It might be prudent for our City council to put the brakes on Affordable Housing handouts. A substantial portion of those funds could soon be unavailable for distribution.

    Evanston is presently a defendant in a federal lawsuit challenging the Constitutionality of its Tear Down Tax ordinance, which is the primary source of funds into Affordable Housing programs. If that suit succeeds, the City will likely be required to return a substantial amount of money to Evanston taxpayers. If the City gives the money away before the suit is resolved, it would be forced to replace the handout with money from its general operating accounts. Ouch.

    Maybe Callan Ave. is not the best project and now is not the best time.

    See http://www.cityofevanston.info for more information about the lawsuit.

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