A new study from the Voorhees Center at the University of Illinois Chicago indicates the scheduled increase in the minimum wage in Cook County to $13 an hour could eliminate the housing cost burden for several hundred families in Evanston.

The study concludes that a $13 minimum wage would relieve the housing cost burden from roughly 68,830 households in the Chicago metro area.

Given Evanston’s share of the metro area population, that could mean about 600 fewer Evanston households spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing — the commonly used threshold for determining housing affordability.

The study indicates a further increase in the minimum wage, to $15 an hour would eliminate the housing cost burden on nearly 38,000 additional metro area residents.

The minimum wage increase was approved last week by the Cook County board. It will be phased in so that the $13 level won’t be reached until mid-2020.

Local efforts in Evanston to increase affordable housing by requiring developers to include subsidized units in new construction projects have had considerably less impact.

So far this year only four new affordable units have been approved under the city’s expanded inclusionary housing ordinance, which went into effect Jan. 1.

But the authors of the Voorhees Center study say efforts to create new affordable housing are still needed — especially for seniors, the disabled and others who aren’t in the workforce.

The study’s authors also assert, based on research by others, that the net reduction in jobs if the minimum wage were increased to $13 an hour across the six-county Chicago region would be relatively small — about 11,600 jobs, or a 0.22 percent decline in employment.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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