For this month, Joining Forces is shining the advocacy spotlight on Bonnie Wilson! Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Bonnie has lived in Evanston since she was 21 years old. She has worked in real estate for the past 38 years and still works as a realtor today. In fact, Bonnie’s work in real estate is what led her to affordable housing advocacy.
When asked about her interest in affordable housing, advocacy, and the pivotal things that drove her to advocating for affordable housing, Bonnie said that from a personal perspective, she noticed how members of her family were struggling with owning or renting homes in Evanston. From a professional perspective, she found that many homes weren’t very affordable for a lot of her clients in Evanston as well. One of the reasons for this is because taxes are higher in Evanston, so a question that propelled Bonnie to start advocating is “what can we do to get more people to live here?” However, Bonnie acknowledges that this issue with unaffordability isn’t just localized to Evanston but is a national issue as well.
From selling real estate, Bonnie noticed that people were being left out from finding homes that they’re able to pay for. Recognizing this issue is what motivated Bonnie to become an advocate, with hopes to ensure that apartment buildings and new developments in the municipality include affordable units. When asked what the best things are to do to improve affordable housing in Evanston, she said 1) pushing to ensure that developments include affordable units, 2) eliminating how the 3-Unrelated Rule defines family and limits the number of people who can legally live together, and 3) letting every alderperson know about our cause.
Before becoming one of Joining Forces’ founding members, when the group started in 2016, Bonnie was involved with two housing programs in Evanston: Housing for All, which arose in the wake of the 2007 housing crisis, and the Age-Friendly Task Force. Initially, the Age-Friendly Task Force primarily focused on finding affordable housing for senior citizens. It then expanded its age range before dissolving. Eventually, these two groups merged with other separate programs and were eventually absorbed into what Joining Forces is today, focusing on a much broader scope of people who need affordable housing.
In her closing remarks, Bonnie said that she is proud of Joining Forces for what it has accomplished since it started and driving the discussion of affordable housing in Evanston.