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Affordability

Keep Evanston affordable for young, low-income, and fixed-income residents.

Evanston lost over 3,000 units of affordable housing over the past 8-10 years. In addition to the raw cost of housing, taxes have driven out many. This has had an adverse effect on diversity: between the last two censuses, Evanston lost 1/5 of its African-American population. We will lose our fundamental character if we price our children and neighbors out of town, and we can't generate the jobs and economic activity we need if Evanston has a tax disincentive against businesses locating here.

Candor on gentrification. Jeff Smith was speaking out about gentrification when it was unfashionable to use the "g-word" and was the first to raise affordability in this race. He has the most experience of any candidate in representing tenants, condominium owners, and single-family homeowners, and the most experience with real estate markets, period. Jeff talks frankly about the fundamental economic connection between subsidizing development and luxury housing, and the impact on neighborhoods, that others won't acknowledge. Both land values and property taxes affect affordability, and City policy and decisions, while neither the main contributor to property taxes nor the principal determinant of market price, impact both. Rapid and dramatic changes in land use can affect neighbors and neighborhoods.

Affordability Impact Analysis. Jeff has called for an Affordability Impact analysis to be part of the City process of approving any planned development so that our eyes are open to what we do, and how it affects the texture of our community. If we don't have the staff resources, a citizen board could be tasked with this. Existing Community Housing Development Organizations ("CHDOs") also have valuable perspectives.

City Initiative in Buyup/Fixup. The City needs to put as much energy into creating housing for ETHS grads who want to return here while still paying off college loans, as for well-heeled professionals moving north. If Evanston can afford to fix up patios for bars, it can afford to fix up abandoned houses that blight neighborhoods and attract criminals and rats.  Jeff supports the City's recent efforts to condemn and rehab, and urges that we utilize local workforce to the greatest degree possible on those projects.

Land Trust. Jeff supports the community land trust model that preserves affordable housing in perpetuity, not just when created, and believes that Evanston can revisit that model, which has worked successfully for many other communities, and which was the first action item for housing in the City's Age-Friendly Action Plan.

Shelter or Designation. Jeff has proposed considering a means, such as an overlay district or opt-in designation, to shelter currently affordable units from taxes based on nearby properties. We landmark or district large, grand old houses; creativity can find a way to protect modest homes that are also a part of our heritage.

Oppose regressive taxes. Jeff believes that it's hypocritical to claim to support economic diversity while instituting ever-higher taxes (including fees and fines) that are, on the whole, regressive. The City is hardly the biggest contributor toward high property taxes, but still must exercise restraint.He is open to exploring partnerships with neighboring communities that could bring efficiencies in utilization. The City must also work with the school districts to hold down the spiraling burden on property owners.

See also:
  • Evanston Population Growth
  • Economic Development in a Special Place
  • As Mayor, Jeff Smith will bring a refreshing honesty to our City policies, and unparalleled sensitivity to the effect of tax and development policy on what we claim to value.

    On Feb. 28, make a difference and vote for Jeff Smith.


    ©2017 Jeff Smith. Paid for by in-kind contribution to Jeff Smith for Evanston. A copy of our report is or will be on file with, and available for purchase from, the Illinois State Board of Elections.
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