According to a December 2018 report published by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA), Evanston had total of 4,993 affordable housing units in 2016 – including both rental apartments and owner-occupied homes. This amounted to 17.5% of Evanston’s total year-round housing units.

IHDA previously computed that Evanston had 7,730 affordable housing units in 2000 and 4,434 in 2011. The total affordable housing units in 2016 was 2,737 fewer than in 2000, but 559 more than in 2011.

The methodology IHDA used in its calculations for the three periods is the same, but the median incomes and housing data, which are central to the calculations, have changed.

While there is an increase in the number of affordable housing units, many residents in Evanston stretch financially to live here. Overall, an estimated 40% of all households are cost burdened (meaning they spend between 30 and 50% of their income on housing costs) or severely cost burdened (meaning they spend more than 50% of their income on housing costs).

The Affordable Housing Act

Under the Illinois Affordable Housing Act, IHDA is required to determine the number of housing units that low- to moderate-income people can afford to rent or purchase in each municipality in the State, including Evanston. If less than 10% of a municipality’s housing is affordable, then the municipality must plan for and produce affordable housing.

In determining whether a household is low- to moderate-income, IHDA uses a benchmark of 60% of the Chicago Metropolitan Area Household Income (AMHI) in calculating affordability for rental units, and 80% of the AMHI in calculating affordability for owner-occupied units. In 2016, IHDA used an AMHI for the Chicago area of $63,327.

To be regarded as “affordable,” the cost of housing must not exceed 30% of a household’s before-tax income, which is a standard not only used by the Illinois Affordable Housing Act, but also by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Affordable Rentals

For apartment rentals, IHDA determined the number of apartments in Evanston that a household whose income was at 60% of the 2016 AMHI could afford to rent. Assuming these households could afford to pay 30% of their income toward housing, these households could afford to pay $949.91 in rent per month. Using data available through the 2016 American Community Survey, IHDA determined there was a total of 2,878 apartments in Evanston being rented at less than $949.91 per month – or that were affordable to a household earning 60% of the AMHI, or earning $37,996.

In 2011, IHDA calculated there were 3,585 affordable apartment units in Evanston, so there has been a decline of 707 affordable apartment units in the last five years.

IDHA’s data does not reflect the size of the apartment that could be rented for less than $949.91 per month. The City’s Consolidated Plan, however, says, “A household with an income of 60% of the area median income can afford only an efficiency or one-bedroom unit, and larger units are unaffordable, restricting housing for larger families and families with children.”

Affordable Owner-occupied Homes

IHDA also determined that a household whose income was at 80% of the AMHI  could afford to purchase a home valued at $156,161 (taking into account mortgage payments, property taxes, insurance, utilities, etc.). Using data available through the 2016 American Community Survey, IHDA determined that there was a total of 2,115 homes in Evanston that were affordable to households earning 80% of the AMI,
or $50,661.

The number of homes viewed as affordable jumped from 849 in 2011 to 2,115 in 2016, or an increase of 1,226 affordable homes.

It is likely that many of these affordable units are condominiums.

Cost-Burdened Households

Sue Loellbach, Manager of Advocacy for Connections for the Homeless and staff for Joining Forces for Affordable Housing, told the RoundTable that her primary interest in affordable housing is the rental side because that is where most lower-income households secure their housing and where there is the greatest need in Evanston.

Ms. Lollebach said that in 2016 there were about 7,000 households renting apartments in Evanston, whose incomes were less than 60% of the AMHI, or less than $37,996. Yet, in 2016, there were only 2,878 affordable rental units in Evanston for those households. Most of those households were thus paying more than 30% of their income toward housing costs.

C-Map’s data reflects that in 2016, 24% of all renters in Evanston spent between 30 and 50% of their income on housing, and were viewed as “cost burdened.” Another 35% spent more than 50% of their income on housing, and were viewed as “severely cost burdened.” Some of these households were students at Northwestern University and not yet in the workforce.

For owner-occupied homes, 20% of Evanston homeowners were cost-burdened, and an additional 15% were severely cost burdened.