I got a personal example recently of how hard it will be to provide more affordable housing in Evanston.

Editor’s notebook 

My brother and I last week sold the house our now deceased parents had bought in Mount Prospect in 1971.

And coincidentally the house in Evanston where we grew up, that our parents had sold in 1971 after my mother had to switch from a school nursing job in Glencoe to one in Schaumburg, also sold last month.

The Mount Prospect house, with eight rooms including four bedrooms, sold for a stated price of $315,000, or $171 per square foot.

The Evanston house, with six rooms including three bedrooms, sold for $380,000, or $257 per square foot.

A listing photo of 903 N. Quince Lane in Mount Prospect.

Forty-eight years ago, when my parents made their westerly move past I-294, they sold their then 17-year-old Evanston home for about $30,000 and purchased the considerably larger and newly-built Mount Prospect home for about $45,000.

They paid a 20 percent per-square-foot premium to move to Mount Prospect then. Now the value proposition is reversed. The Evanston house carries a 50 percent per-square-foot premium.

Admittedly, it’s not an entirely apples-to-apples comparison between these two homes.

A developer recently put a lot of work and money into upgrading the Evanston house after buying it in April for $160,000, and the Mount Prospect property got only modest upgrades immediately before we sold it.

But the real estate site Zillow says the current median price for a single family home in Mount Prospect is $314,000, while the median price for a single family home in Evanston is $472,000 — or 50 percent more.

You couldn’t get me to leave Evanston to live in Mount Prospect. Like a lot of other people, I enjoy our proximity to the university, the walkable community and all our urban amenities. But that desirability drives up prices.

Given high land and construction costs, it appears that more affordable housing in Evanston will have to involve smaller housing units built at greater density — whether that’s granny flat coach houses or additional apartment buildings.

And so far the potential solutions appear to be advancing only at a snail’s pace.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Affordable housing

    Knowing that Evanston housing prices have increased by less than 1% per year (zillow) for the last 10 years, I would have thought the affordability issue would have abated.

    Why aren’t our homes at least appreciating at the rate of inflation?  What are Evanstonian’s thoughts about how this impacts what is likely one of their most significant investments?

    How does this impact the purchasing decisions of potential buyers?  How do we change this paradigm?

    1. thoughts on Evanston home price appreciation

      There are likely several factors that go into house price appreciation or the lack thereof.

      The State of Illinois has experienced NEGATIVE population growth for 6 years in a row, and Evanston’s population is flat to down.

      Another major factor contributing to anemic house price appreciation is the very challenged fiscal situation at the State, County and Local levels. Annual budgets at all 3 government levels continue to outpace inflation and median household income growth, and the off balance sheet liability of unfunded pension funds continues to grow.

      The fiscal challenges and uncertainties combined with Chicago and Illinois’ legendary corruption has led to some relative under investment by corporations and other entities. This under investment results in less job growth and slower income growth.

      Alas, all is not bleak in Illinois and Evanston as the cost of living on the coasts far exceeds the cost of Chicagoland. And companies like Google have taken notice and recently expanded in Chicago. 

      What ideas or insights do others have ?

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