“The resolution approved Monday directs initial funding of $400,000 from the city’s Local Reparations Fund to a housing program that will award eligible individuals up to $25,000.”
Evanston, a Chicago suburb, approved a $10 million reparation program for its black residents as compensation “for codified discrimination:”
“The Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program … acknowledges the harm caused to Black/African-American Evanston residents due to discriminatory housing policies and practices and inaction on the part of the City,” the resolution reads.
The program is a step toward “revitalizing, preserving, and stabilizing Black/African-American owner-occupied homes in Evanston, increasing homeownership and building the wealth of Black/African-American residents, building intergenerational equity amongst Black/African-American residents, and improving the retention rate of Black/African-American homeowners in the City of Evanston,” the resolution reads.
The reparation program is believed to be the first in the nation. The council crafted it as a way “to address the discriminatory housing policies and practices faced by Black residents.”
They plan to fund the program with marijuana sales taxes and donations:
The resolution approved Monday directs initial funding of $400,000 from the city’s Local Reparations Fund to a housing program that will award eligible individuals up to $25,000. That money can be used to help with a home down payment or closing cost assistance within the city; help pay for repairs, improvements or modernizations of an Evanston property; or help pay down mortgage principal, interest or late penalties on Evanston property, according to a memo from Kimberly Richardson, interim assistant city manager.
To qualify, an applicant must have “origins in any of the Black racial and ethnic groups of Africa,” according to the memo. Applicants must also be a Black resident of Evanston between 1919-1969, or that person’s direct descendant.
Applicants also qualify if they experienced housing discrimination due to the city’s policies or practices after 1969.
Evanston already received $21,340 in private donations. The city expects to pay out $10 million over 10 years.
Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, who introduced the program in 2019, described it as a first step.
Simmons declared: “It is, alone, not enough. We all know that the road to repair and justice in the Black community is going to be a generation of work. It’s going to be many programs and initiatives, and more funding.”
Alderman Cicely Fleming cast the lone no vote:
Ald. Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, who cast the lone vote against the measure, said she did so because “what we have here before us tonight, I would counter, is a housing program with the title reparations.”
She said the housing program does not allow “people to dictate the terms of how they are repaired.”
Other residents said they wanted reparations in the form of cash payments, not mortgage assistance.
“I want reparations like any Black person in this city does,” said Evanston resident Rose Cannon, who supports cash payments. “(But) I am willing to step back and not take this in the package in which it’s presented to me.”
Incoming mayor Daniel Bliss approved of the vote:
“Reparations is a huge, difficult, and complex project that seeks to address the damage done by white supremacy, one of the great prolonged evils in human history. It will not be “solved” on the first try,” Biss wrote. “On the contrary, we will have to try many different approaches, listen with an open mind to learn from what works and what needs to be changed, and adjust our strategy on an ongoing basis.”
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