Using City-Owned Property for Affordable Housing

Recently, several parcels of land owned by the City of Evanston have been for sale. One was the old Recycling Center on Oakton, which is moving toward becoming a climbing wall facility. Another is the library parking lot, where a controversial proposal to build a large office building was being considered and was recently declined by the City Council.

  • We understand that, several years ago, the City debated whether the Recycling Center parcel should be used for affordable housing and decided that it should not. That ship has sailed, and we won't bring the issue up again--unless, for some reason, plans for the climbing wall fall through and the City goes back to the drawing board completely.
  • However, at its July 8 meeting, the City Council is going to discuss issuance of an RFP to developers for the library parking lot parcel, since there has been interest among developers. Additionally, we expect that other City-owned lots will come up for sale over the next year.
While not every parcel is appropriate for affordable housing, Joining Forces feels that any piece of City-owned property should be rigorously evaluated as a site for affordable housing before any RFP is issued and that all developers should be encouraged to propose buildings that include affordable residential units. We would like to see developers be invited to look beyond current zoning restrictions--if they include affordable units in their proposals--in order to promote development of affordable units in traditional as well as mixed-use and mixed-income buildings.

Additionally, we would like to see the Affordable Housing Plan Steering Committee include provisions for City-owned property in the Affordable Housing Plan that it is drafting. Now is the time to look at the available land in the City and determine where and how as much of it as possible can be used to achieve the City's goals, in particular, the goal related to affordable housing. The plan should also call for an ongoing policy that requires newly available City-owned land to be immediately considered for use as affordable housing as it  becomes available. 

Chicago is in the process of building 4 new libraries that have senior housing included in the facilities. This is the kind of creativity and innovation that we need to seek from developers of all kinds of building if we are to meet the need in Evanston.