Springfield Stalemate Stalls 6th Ward Affordable Home

Contrary to some misperceptions, affordable housing advocates in Evanston, at least all those I know, don't want to confine affordable housing to only one part of the town. In fact, for many months, the Citizens Lighthouse Community Land Trust has been working on the acquisition and development of a single-family home in the 6th Ward in northwest Evanston, and had even entered into a contract for purchase.

CLCLT works to provide affordable home ownership for qualified buyers by acquiring property and holding the land portion in a community trust for perpetuity, thus ensuring that the property does not get "flipped," which would destroy the affordable nature of the home. In many regions of the U.S., a community land trust is the dominant form of affordable housing. However, where land values are high, acquiring property is a challenge.

In the case of the 6th Ward project, the CLCLT and seller were both willing, but one of the principal funding sources, from the State of Illinois, was frozen while the state budget remained in limbo this spring and summer. So the CLCLT scrambled to find alternate funds, requesting additional resources from the City of Evanston – resources beyond the informally stated limit of HOME fund dollars.

Unfortunately, the City funding process is not well suited for "rapid response," and before a decision could be made, the property seller accepted another offer. The CLCLT at that time dropped its funding request, but continues to pursue acquiring a property in north Evanston, including the original property if it goes back on the market.

State funding for affordable housing in the next year or two is uncertain because much of the state's contribution derives from real estate transfer taxes. With the real estate market slowed and prices fallen, transfer tax revenues have likewise dropped, so we may not be able to count on the state for a while.

The City is about to formulate a comprehensive affordable housing policy. City officials have stated the desirability of having affordable housing in all wards in the city. However, land prices make such opportunities infrequent in some neighborhoods. A critical question is how to streamline the municipal funding process so that when such opportunities present themselves, the City can direct its resources to Community Housing Development Corporations fast enough to meet sellers' real-world market needs.

In the meantime, the CLCLT seeks a buyer for its first developed property, a 3BR single-family home at 2212 Washington St., available for $169,000 to a qualified family of four or more. Please feel free to spread the word.