Mayoral candidate Jeff Smith claims that new development in Evanston has gentrified low income people out of town.
Speaking to a largely African-American audience at Family Focus Thursday evening, Smith said the city “throws money at developers in the form of subsidies and zoning breaks, all sorts of enticements and incentives.”
As a result, he said, land values go up, distorting the housing market.
“For 20 years I’ve been saying that if we keep doing what we’re doing we’re going to be gentrifying people out of Evanston,” Smith added. “The city has to own its role for what it’s done to distort the housing market in Evanston.”
However, U.S. Census data does not support claims that low income residents are being priced out of town.
Household income data shows that from 2009 to 2015, with residents grouped into three income categories, the low income population in Evanston increased by 3 percentage points, while middle-income residents declined by a similar amount and higher income residents increased by just 0.4 of a percentage point.
The picture is generally similar if the population is further subdivided into 10 categories by income.
Median income barely budged — up 0.7 percent — and mean income rose just 0.3 percent.
Furthermore, the latest census housing cost figures show that the share of Evanston households who are defined by the government as housing-cost burdened — paying 30 percent or more of their income for housing — has declined from a decade earlier.
The cost-burdened figures can be volatile — because they have a high margin of error for a community the size of Evanston and because of sometimes rapid changes in the real estate market.
But they show that the share of Evanston owners considered cost-burdened fell from 39 percent in 2005 to 29 percent in 2015. The share of renters considered cost-burdened fell from 55 to 49 percent during the same time period.
The Census Bureau survey says the number of occupied housing units in Evanston increased by 2,630 during that time span — reflecting a substantial amount of multi-family new construction in the city.
However, the number of owner-occupied units declined by 1,370, while the number of renter-occupied units increased by 4,000 — reflecting the national decline in home-ownership levels following the bursting of the real estate bubble last decade and the recent spurt in multi-family rental construction in Evanston.