Council approves fee hike for group which manages city’s growing affordable housing waitlist

By Bob Seidenberg

Evanston City Council approved an increase in the fee a Libertyville-based firm receives to manage the city’s waitlist for affordable housing — a list that continues to grow and is approaching 600 households.

Council members approved a fee of $50,000, an increase of $7,000, to Community Partners for Affordable Housing (CPAH) to continue to administer the city’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance centralized waitlist. 

Members of the city’s Housing & Community Development Committee on Nov. 15 recommended in favor of the increase for 2023, which the council voted for on Dec. 12.

Since 2017, the city has contracted with CPAH to manage its centralized waitlist for people (and/or families, which are all categorized as households) interested in affordable housing – much of it available via the contractual agreements the city forges with developers.

In a memo to the committee, Sarah Flax, the city’s Interim Community Development Director, gave three reasons why she recommended the fee hike.

  • The increasing number of units to service and the associated increase of the waiting list size.
  • The addition of compliance reviews for buildings with affordable units that predate the city’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, which created a mandate for developers to set aside affordable housing units in any new construction.
  • CPAH also conducts outreach and holds a variety of meetings. Not only does the organization speak with Evanston residents in need of affordable housing, Flax said, but it must meet with city staff, developers and property managers, and communicate program requirements to developers and property managers.

Evanston’s ordinance requires developers of new construction residential rental projects to provide a percentage of affordable units to be priced affordably for low and moderate income households or make a financial contribution to the city’s Affordable Housing Fund in lieu of providing the units.

Big developments, few affordable units

As of July 1 this year, there were 560 households on the city’s waitlist, 160 of which claimed local preference, which means people either live or work in the city, according to the report. (Other affordable housing organizations may have independent waitlists.)

“It’s quite a big waiting list,” observed Fifth Ward Council member Bobby Burns at the Nov. 15 Housing & Community Development Committee meeting.

Burns asked asked CPAH representative Amy Kaufman if CPAH was able to partner with other affordable housing organizations “to help people find options while they’re on the list.”

Kaufman said the organization does work with people who seek help from CPAH on an individual basis, if “we think that there’s another program that would be better for them or in addition [there] would be another list that they should get on.

“We share those resources, but we don’t actively try and house people on our waiting list through other organizations,” she told committee members.

Of the buildings with Inclusionary Housing Ordinance units, the top two are the Albion, 1500 Sherman Ave., with 15, and Avidor, 1727 Oak Ave., with 17. No information was available about turnover.

Income levels

Of the new units in the pipeline for 2022 and beyond, none were approved for people whose income levels are half or less of the Area Median Income (AMI):

  • 29 units were available for those at 51%-60% of AMI range,
  • five for 61%-80% of AMI, and
  • 17 for the 81%-120% income level.

AMI income levels vary according to household size, and in accordance with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development income standards. The current HUD guidelines went into effect April 18, 2022. It sets a 60% of AMI income limit for a household of one at $43,800. But for a household of three in Evanston,

  • 60% of AMI is $56,280,
  • 80% is $75,050 and
  • 100 % is $93,800.

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