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Word spread rapidly around the Civic Center today that Evanston has been awarded $18 million from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The funds are part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Evanston is one of only two Illinois municipalities to receive NSP funds – the other is the City of Chicago – although four other Illinois entities received grants, said City Planner Dennis Marino. He oversaw the application, submitted several months ago, which describes two projects for the City. The first is the purchase and rehab of foreclosed and vacant properties on the City’s south and west sides, returning them to the market for sale or rent at affordable rates, according to the application.

The second aspect is the creation of Emerson Square, “with rental and for-sale homes with a variety of building types, potentially including a four-story elevator building, six- and five-unit buildings townhomes and single-family detached homes” along Emerson Street. The City will partner with Brinshore Partners, a developer of affordable housing in other parts of the Chicago area, Highland Park among them.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl told the RoundTable. “The grant is wonderful for this community. It will preserve what we love most about Evanston – the diversity of the people. … I was concerned about our citizens, about the many foreclosures and whether people would be able to stay here.”

“The staff did an excellent job on the application.” She said she had

solicited support for the project from both Senator Dick Durbin and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky. “They went to bat for us. … They were extremely helpful because they thought it was a good application.” 

“I am thrilled; it’s very exciting,” Mr. Marino told the RoundTable. “The grant award was about 45 percent of what we had asked for [$41 million]. … The need is great in those two census tracts [on the south and west sides]. This will stimulate the neighborhood economy.”
In a prepared statement, Ms. Schakowsky said, “The Neighborhood Stabilization Program was created to redevelop hard-hit communities, create jobs, and grow local economies by providing communities with the resources to purchase and rehabilitate vacant homes and convert them to affordable housing. … I am extremely pleased that the Department of Housing and Urban Development has recognized the need in Illinois for assistance in dealing with foreclosed homes and rebuilding our communities.  The recovery bill, which Congress passed last February, made this funding available, including $98 million for Chicago and $18 million for Evanston.  Foreclosures remain a problem nationwide.  According to the Chicago Rehab Network, in my district alone, nearly 3,000 families had their homes foreclosed in 2009.  These grants will prevent many of those homes from sitting vacant and instead allow them to be redeveloped into affordable housing, meeting an urgent need in our community.”

Mayor Tisdahl also told the RoundTable, “We will spend the money wisely – once the mayor quits dancing on the ceiling.”

Because the City did not receive the full amount of funding, City staff have not yet formalized how they will proceed or if and from where they will seek other funding.