With the cooperation of the City and the Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH), a new class at Evanston Township High School, Geometry in Construction, will teach geometry to students in one of the most practical ways imaginable: by building an actual single family home. The home, once constructed in the ETHS parking lot and then moved to its permanent location at nearby 1941 Jackson Ave., will become affordable housing for an income-qualified purchaser.
The City’s NSP2 partner, Brinshore Development, purchased the1941 Jackson property but demolished the nonconforming two-flat there, said the City’s Housing and Grants Administrator Sarah Flax. Since all NSP2 funds are expected to be exhausted, under NSP2 rules, the location could have been “land banked” for up to ten years while the City figured out what to do with it. The site is one of five vacant NSP2 cites in the City’s land bank portfolio.
City and ETHS officials quickly identified the 1941 Jackson property as ideal for the ETHS program. ETHS constructed a brand new classroom over the summer specifically for the Geometry in Construction program. Shelly Gates, chair of the ETHS Career and Technical Education Department, called the class “A groundbreaking kind of project.” The Geometry in Construction class offers “cooperative learning, teamwork, problem solving” while highlighting “housing in Evanston” as a service-learning component, she said. Fifty-four kids are participating in two class sections, and their parents have already become involved through parent nights.
“This is one of the best collaborations we’ve ever had,” said Ms. Gates.
CPAH will locate an income qualified purchaser once the home is completed and relocated to 1941 Jackson. CPAH will also secure affordable-housing tax credits for the project, and those credits can be sold on the open market, said District 202 Chief Financial Officer William Stafford. Proceeds from the tax credit sale will fund the Geometry in Construction class and future similar classes. “We plan to do this every year,” said Mr. Stafford.
The project has already found partners across the City. The Evanston Community Foundation provided tools for the new ETHS classroom, said Mr. Stafford. The Rebuilding Warehouse will assist with windows and other elements of the house, said Ms. Gates. Local contractor Robin Rue Simmons will assist with finding contractors to complete the electrical, plumbing and HVAC work for the home since those specialties are beyond the capacity of 14- to 16- year-old high school students, said Ms. Gates.
Local architect DonnaLee M. Floeter provided the plans for the home, a narrow three-bedroom, two-bath project designed to fit the Jackson lot.
A covenant attached to the home’s deed will insure that it remains affordable housing after its initial occupant sells the home, said Rob Anthony of CPAH. CPAH will not only find an occupant, but will work with the new homeowner by offering education in concepts like “neighbor issues and property taxes,” said Mr. Anthony.
The intergovernmental agreement received enthusiastic support from the City’s Planning and Development Committee and passed on the consent agenda at the City Council meeting. A slide show displayed by Ms. Gates showed the classroom in action, with kids measuring and building supports for a staircase. With the two sides of the staircase built by two different groups of kids, the measurements have to be accurate. Learning in action – the consequences of getting a geometry problem wrong take on a whole different meaning in this class.
ETHS officials say they expect the home to be completed and moved by the end of the school year.