A new study from the Center for Neighborhood Technology says Evanston is the only lakeshore community in northern Cook County with neighborhoods where housing is affordable to a family making the metro area’s median household income.

And the study says Evanston has among the lowest transportation costs in the suburbs.

A new study from the Center for Neighborhood Technology says Evanston is the only lakeshore community in northern Cook County with neighborhoods where housing is affordable to a family making the metro area’s median household income.

And the study says Evanston has among the lowest transportation costs in the suburbs.

The center, which advocates for sustainable growth policies, compiled data nationwide from various sources to calculate what it estimates is the true cost of living for families in different areas.


Interactive maps from the study are available online.

Looking just at the cost of housing, the data shows that housing costs in 23 of Evanston’s 56 census tract block groups are considered affordable — based on the traditional measure that housing costs should consume no more than 30 percent of area median household income.

Across the city, housing costs as a percentage of median income ranged from 18 percent of median area income in the southeast corner of the 8th Ward along Howard Street to 71 percent in a northwest Evanston block group running along Lincolnwood Avenue south of Central Street.

The nearest lakeshore communities with affordable neighborhoods are Highland Park and Highwood in Lake County, although Skokie, Glenview and other northern Cook County towns away from the lake have areas the study considers affordable.

The study says transportation costs account for 11 to 12 percent of median income expenses for people living in some neighborhoods near Chicago’s downtown core, and 15 to 16 percent for most on Chicago’s north side.

In Evanston those costs tend to range from 16 to 19 percent of income, while in many areas further out in the suburbs they rise to 20 percent or more. 

The Center for Neighborhood Technology estimates that for housing to be affordable, housing plus transportation costs need to equal no more than 45 percent of median income.

The study says the median household income in the Chicago area is $51,680, and the average household size is 2.6 persons.

Questions about whether housing in Evanston is affordable, and whether the supply of affordable housing in town in increasing or decreasing have sparked debate in the community for years and have driven city efforts to build subsidized housing — efforts that have run into serious financial difficulties as the real estate bubble burst.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Crime keeps it affordable
    And much of Evanston is affordable because of the crime. If crime were to decrease to, say, Highland Park levels, I believe it would no longer be affordable. But, it’s the trade off we live with and the choice we have made.

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