More affordable housing in the Fifth Ward is on the way after the City of Evanston bought a single-family home at 1808 Hovland Court, with plans to donate it to Community Partners for Affordable Housing, Council Member Bobby Burns (5th Ward) announced Thursday.

The house at 1808 Hovland Court in a photo from 2021. Credit: MLS listing

“Similar to the boarded-up properties on Jackson and Emerson, it [1808 Hovland Court] was creating an eyesore and trash was accumulating, and we were dealing with other issues,” Burns said at the Fifth Ward meeting. “Thanks to the support from my colleagues, we were able to get the city to purchase it.”

The city purchased the property for $159,000. The sale closed March 29.

Burns said that CPAH has a homeownership program that helps give people who make between 60% and 80% of the area median income a pathway to homeownership. (Evanston’s median income, according to 2021 U.S. Census data, was $87,345.)

Fifth Ward Council Member Bobby Burns Credit: Richard Cahan

The city also purchased a 45,690 square foot (1.049 acre) site at 1917-1925 Jackson Ave. and 1413-1425 Emerson St. for $1,675,000. The city passed a resolution to purchase the property on June 27, 2022.

Also at the ward meeting, Evanston Fire Department Chief Paul Polep said residents who have seen some firetrucks at the Jackson and Emerson property shouldn’t fret: it’s just firefighters getting in some training hours.

Polep explained the department conducts training at abandoned properties owned by the city. EFD is using the property to help train firefighters to climb a ladder onto and off a roof and practice cutting holes in the roof to release smoke from the building. Special rescue team members are gaining experience with using their high-tech equipment to stabilize parts of the house, Polep said.

Evanston firefighters train March 29 at an empty house at 1925 Jackson Ave. Credit: Richard Cahan

“This training has been nothing but fantastic,” Polep said. “When we trained to be firefighters, we go to the academy for eight weeks and then after that it’s training on our own, whether it’s climbing our own fire stations to the roof, whether it’s finding buildings in the area. And when an opportunity like this comes up, we try to take advantage of it.”

After the department is done using those buildings for training, the city will begin the process of deciding what to develop on the city-owned space. The city hired a local minority-owned demolition company to demolish the remnants of the property, Burns said. He didn’t name the firm. The city will collect community input to help determine what should be developed there, Burns said.

The city also will hire a consultant to conduct a parking study in the Hill Arts area, Burns said. The city has held community meetings about parking in that area but decided it’s time to have another party look at the issue to come up with recommendations.

More businesses are coming to the area, and the addition of a skate park at Twiggs Park and the new Fifth Ward school at Foster Field, southwest of the intersection of Simpson Street and Ashland Avenue, might create parking challenges, Burns said.

“Instead of going at this very complicated issue on our own, we decided to contract out with a company to help us out, so I’ll have more information for everybody soon,” he said.

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Gina Castro

Gina Castro is a Racial Justice fellow for the RoundTable. She recently earned a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism where she studied investigative reporting....

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