November 18, 2020
According to the DePaul University Institute for Housing Studies, there is a shortage of more than 6,900 affordable units in Evanston and Skokie combined. (Click on the link at the bottom of this page to access this data in the Appendix to the study cited.)
Dear City of Evanston Aldermen and Mayor Hagerty:
Members of Joining Forces for Affordable Housing would like to reiterate our support of the The Emerson at 1900 Sherman, up for your vote on Monday, November 23.
We have already described our reasons for supporting this development, the primary one being 51 new units of affordable housing. Given an overall need in our immediate vicinity of close to 7,000 units, this is just a drop in the bucket. However, the Emerson will provide one of the largest infusions of affordable housing into our community in years, especially with the Housing Authority’s intent to pair the most affordable units with project-based vouchers to make them affordable for our lowest-income residents.
As you consider your vote for Monday night, we would like to provide a response to objections to the building raised at recent meetings:
1. The current shortage of affordable units applies to the full scope of need. Yes, we need more units for non-seniors and families with children. But there is also a serious shortage of small studio and 1- and 2-bedroom apartments that are affordable for singles and for seniors. The broad need does not negate the narrower need that the Emerson will help to meet.
2. According to the Housing Authority of Cook County (HACC), three informational meetings about the Emerson were conducted at the Perlman building. That the majority of people speaking both in favor of and against the Emerson building have been middle-aged white people reflects a larger issue than HACC’s community outreach efforts. Rather, it highlights the community’s need to increase racial equity, not just financially, but in perceived and real opportunities to participate in civic processes and decisions.
3. Much of the City’s Zoning Code pertains to amendments, variances, non-conforming uses, non-complying structures, special uses, and planned developments, with one purpose of planned developments being to “encourage innovation in the planning and building of all types of development.” While we agree that rules are necessary, the intent of the Zoning Code is NOT to provide a rigid definition of what can and can’t be built. Rather, the Zoning Code provides guidelines and processes that allow the City to meet its needs flexibly without causing harm. HACC is working well within the limits of Evanston’s City Code.
4. As a Joining Forces member stated during the P&D meeting, “I now believe that I cannot truly be in favor of affordable housing and at the same time object to taller buildings in Evanston.” Joining Forces supports density that results in more affordable housing, even if it changes the character of a few blocks. Meeting the need for affordable housing is going to require huge changes in how the City spends its money, how it evaluates land use, and how our neighborhoods look. This change is, to us, necessary and welcome.
Last, given that this is budget season, we would like to mention again that the Emerson is adding to the City’s supply of affordable housing without using any City, County, State, or Federal resources. In a time of severe austerity, HACC is bringing new resources to provide affordable housing to Evanston.
We ask you to choose affordable housing on Monday night and to vote “YES!” for the Emerson.
Manager of Advocacy
Joining Forces for Affordable Housing
A Program of Connections for the Homeless