On January 21, a key topic at the Evanston City Council meeting will be progress on creating more affordable housing in our community. Joining Forces for Affordable Housing is guest-authoring five editorials to inform and engage our community around this issue, which affects wellbeing and future opportunities for all of us.

Submitted by Sue Loellbach, Manager of Advocacy for Connections for the Homeless and leader of Joining Forces for Affordable Housing

As Joining Forces for Affordable Housing has highlighted in its series of guest essays, the City of Evanston is paving the way for more affordable housing and setting a positive example for other municipalities on the North Shore. Now is the time for the City to take action by completing its new Affordable Housing Plan and beginning implementation. In support of that plan, we ask that the City move forward with the following goals for action throughout the next year:

  • Choose to build affordable housing, instead of market-rate or luxury housing, on City-owned land.
  • Choose to include those who need affordable housing in the planning, and ensure representation from all wards and neighborhoods.
  • Choose to coordinate the efforts of the Affordable Housing Plan Steering Committee and the Reparations Sub-Committee and the uses of their respective funds.
  • Choose to integrate housing planning throughout all City departments, commissions, committees, and task forces, so they may contribute to and collaborate on solutions.
  • Choose to embrace density, especially near transportation hubs, as a tool to create affordability, to minimize impact on the environment, to build community, and to increase commerce and prosperity for all citizens.

When saying “City,” we look beyond the municipal staff and elected officials. We encourage all Evanston stakeholders to choose to play a role in increasing affordability:

  • Evanston City Council: Make affordable housing a top priority, not just on the City’s list of priorities, but in the choices that you make around spending funds, changing laws, building buildings, and using land.
  • City Manager and Department Heads: Engage all departments in developing solutions that will create new and preserve existing units of affordable housing, going beyond the City’s already effective work in paving the way for diverse housing options.
  • Affordable Housing Plan Steering Committee: Regain your momentum and create a plan that will incite the City to take action toward tangible goals resulting in new affordability this year and each year after.
  • Reparations Sub-Committee: Proactively collaborate with the Affordable Housing Plan Steering Committee to ensure that the Affordable Housing Plan and the Reparations Plan complement each other and that the uses of their respective funds are well coordinated.
  • Evanston Residents: Recognize that affordability can be created in any neighborhood. Embrace affordability measures that can work in your neighborhood, and encourage the City to implement those measures quickly.

Throughout the year, Joining Forces will be active at the municipal and state levels. We will review and provide feedback on Evanston’s new Affordable Housing Plan, advocate for its adoption, and urge the City to move forward quickly to implement the Plan. We will also be working with surrounding municipalities on initiatives similar to those being worked on in Evanston.  At the County and State levels, we will be advocating for more funding for municipalities to spend on housing and initiatives to advance similar efforts that have proven successful in Evanston.

Evanston has shown great boldness in choosing to enact reparations. However, while the City is the leader in paving the way for affordability on the North Shore, it has not yet taken the bold steps needed to create a significant number of new affordable units. Joining Forces will continue to choose the options that lead to more affordability. We ask every stakeholder in Evanston to do the same: Please be bold. Choose Affordable Housing.

Joining Forces for Affordable Housing, a program of Connections for the Homeless, is a coalition of non-profits, communities of faith, and individuals that are working to increase housing affordability in north suburban Cook County. To learn more about Joining Forces for Affordable Housing, please visit http://joiningforces.connect2home.org.

Action You Can Take

The mission of Connections for the Homeless is to serve and catalyze the community to end homelessness, one person at a time. The three pillars of our work are eviction prevention, housing, and shelter.

Eviction Prevention: We partner with community members at risk of losing their homes and connect them with financial support and resources.

Housing: We provide rental assistance, support on housing applications and resources, a housing program for young adults, and connections to permanent housing.

Shelter: We offer drop-in programming at our two facilities five days a week, with access to laundry, showers, meals, case management, and resources. We also have an overnight shelter for men and are opening a women’s shelter this year.

We serve more than 1,500 people each year – each with a unique story. The one thing all of these people have in common is that they don’t have access to housing they can afford.

That’s why we started our Advocacy Program, which runs the coalition called Joining Forces for Affordable Housing. Through advocacy, we work to increase the supply of affordable housing in our region.

Evanston is taking the lead on affordable housing in Northern Cook County. However, there is still much more work to be done.