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Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2

Evanston, Cook County

Goal

Combat foreclosure and vacancy by acquiring and rehabbing 100 units of housing, and to construct a 32-unit New Urbanist housing development on a blighted industrial site.

Target

Vacant and foreclosed housing in two census tracts, 8092 and 8102, in west and south Evanston

Financing

Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 (NSP2): $18.15 million

Success

  • Property values in target census tracts are rising and foreclosure and vacancy rates are falling.
  • The City exceeded their goal of 25 percent of contracted work going to local or minority-owned businesses.

Lessons learned

Targeting resources in two census tracts helped to maximize impact. Although other census tracts were eligible to receive and in need of funds, the City recognized that they needed to concentrate resources in order to be successful.

Program background

Like many other communities around the Chicago region, the City of Evanston’s housing market did not go unscathed after the economy collapsed in 2008. Confronted by falling property values, high levels of predatory lending and a weak job market, housing foreclosures and vacancies began to rise, particularly in certain areas of south and west Evanston. Committed to fighting against destabilization in its housing market, the City decided to apply for Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 funds in a partnership with Brinshore Development, and was awarded $18.15 million in federal funds in 2010 to combat foreclosure and vacancy.

How it works

Evanston’s NSP application focused on the acquisition and rehabilitation of units in two census tracts: 8102 in south Evanston and 8092 in west Evanston. Though both hit hard by foreclosure, the tracts are very different from one another. In tract 8102, there is a lot of multifamily housing and a large number of condo conversions. Tract 8092 is relatively low density, has a fair amount of rental housing and has historically been plagued by predatory lending.

Using NSP funds, the City’s goal was to acquire and rehab 100 units of housing—half to be renter-occupied and the other half to be owner-occupied. Brinshore Development was the master developer, and the City worked closely with them to help develop and execute a strategy regarding property acquisition and rehab. The City was intentional about concentrating their work to two tracts that were severely impacted by foreclosures to reverse the disinvestment and stabilize these neighborhoods.

In one two-block section, they acquired five properties. The development of Emerson Square was another core aspect of the City’s goal to concentrate NSP resources. NSP funds were used for property acquisition and to conduct environmental remediation work, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits, HOME funds, and other sources funded the construction to transform an old blighted industrial parcel into a 32-unit mixed-income development, which is located near many other units that were acquired with NSP funds.

The City leveraged other funding sources and partnerships to increase the impact of their NSP strategy. The National Community Stabilization Trust, which works with NSP grantees to combat speculation of real estate owned properties, helped the City to acquire properties that were being marketed through their programs. In census tract 8092, the City also carried out road resurfacing, sidewalk replacement and tree planting projects near NSP properties with Community Development Block Grant funds. Evanston also layered HOME funds they were receiving into the acquisition and rehab costs of rental units. These additional investments were critical to successfully supporting and implementing the NSP proposal.

To date, all units acquired, rehabbed and developed with NSP funds are occupied. Five properties whose condition were beyond rehab were demolished with the goal of being redeveloped as housing. Three of these are being redeveloped through a partnership with Evanston Township High School. The remaining two lots may potentially house higher density residential units and/or commercial uses. Under HUD guidelines, all NSP-funded housing needs to be occupied by households at or below 120 percent of area median income (AMI). 25 percent of funds need to be spent on housing that is reserved for households at or below 50 percent of AMI. All units need to be affordable for at least 15 years.

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