Action Needed on IHO

The City of Evanston's Inclusionary Housing Ordinance (IHO) Sub-Committee has not met since February 7, and no new meetings are on the calendar. In the meantime, several new real estate developments are under negotiation under the provisions of the current IHO. City staff is successfully negotiating with the developers to include affordable units on-site in the new developments (as opposed to paying fees in lieu).

However, the developers are consistently proposing to make their on-site units affordable to households with higher incomes than what is asked of them via the IHO.

As shown above, the Trammel Crowe development proposed for 1727 Oak will have 169 units, 10% of which will be affordable. Trammel Crowe originally proposed to make half of the the affordable units be for people at 60% of the AMI and half for those at 80% of the AMI. City staff have negotiated to have 25% at 50% of the AMI, 25% at 60% of the AMI, and 50% at 80% of the AMI. This is an improvement, but it is still not the 50% at 50% of the AMI and 50% at 60% of the AMI defined in the IHO.

The same has happened with the Gateway Evanston project proposed for 128-132 Chicago Ave., which has a total of 26 units. Because part of the funding for this project is public, the developer is required to make 20% of the units affordable (or pay fees in lieu). They have agreed to include the affordable units on-site instead of paying the fees; however, instead of making half available for people at 50% of the AMI and half for people at 60% of the AMI, they are proposing to make all 5 of the units affordable for people at 80% of the AMI.

In both cases, the developers have argued that, because the cost to them of providing the affordable units is higher than the $100,000 buy-out per unit, their proposals are equivalent alternatives to what the IHO requires. They have provided financials to the City to show that more affordability is financially infeasible. The developers have the modeling tools and data to make a strong case. Unfortunately, with the current IHO, the City has no such tools to use in making a counter argument.

We applaud City staff for making clear the City's preference to have developers include affordable units on-site instead of paying fees in lieu and for pushing developers to provide the greatest possible level of affordability. We believe that with a stronger IHO and modeling tools to back it up, the City would be able to do even better in leveraging new development to provide more affordable units.

That is why we feel it is urgent for the City of Evanston's IHO Sub-Committee to begin to meet again as soon as possible. Joining Forces has researched the modeling tool that the VIllage of Highland Park used to establish its IHO, and we believe that the City of Evanston needs to adopt a similar modeling tool--but one that is tailored to the income levels and housing needs of Evanston.

The IHO Sub-Committee has delayed in meeting because it is waiting for staff to schedule an educational meeting with real estate developers. However, we believe that the Sub-Committee has many qualified members who could help the committee to make progress even before the educational meeting is complete and who, in fact, could provide much of the education needed. Revising the current IHO is a task that requires immediate attention leading to deep analysis and comprehensive planning. These activities should be delayed no longer.

ACTION NEEDED: Please urge your aldermen and members of the IHO Sub-Committee to re-start their work on revising the current IHO.