The national spotlight is on Evanston after its city council voted this week to pass a housing reparations program believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.
“We think this is one small step for Black people in Evanston that have suffered through discrimination in so many areas,” said Dr. Michael Nabors, president of the Evanston North Shore Branch NAACP. "But it is a giant step for the entire Black community."
The housing reparations program passed Monday night in a historic 8-1 vote. The city allocated $400,000 for the program. The money will help 16 Black families who have suffered from housing discrimination.
"I’m very proud that in my life I get to see something that answers some of the questions and needs about how do you amend this," said Evanston resident Joyce Hill.
Hill has lived in Evanston for the past 60 years and said this is a good start.
“There are parts of it that people feel are not adequate to answer the call of the duty that reparations are supposed to amend, but in retrospect this is the beginning,” she said. “There are continuous efforts to make it satisfactory to move on from here.”
The city said eligible Black families can receive up to $25,000 to help with any housing-related expenses. In order to qualify, you must be a resident or be a descendent of someone who faced housing discrimination in Evanston between 1919 and 1969.
“There are a number of people who came in on the outside of that time frame who feel as though they’re being excluded and then there are others who families were here during that timeframe who feel it’s not enough,” said Evanston resident Ndona Muboyayi.
Ndona Muboyayi is a fifth-generation Evanston resident. She's also the founder of Our Village The Black Evanstonian and worries that a group of eligible residents may not see the reparations.
“A vast majority of our seniors either no longer own their homes or they’re living in senior housing so something such as a housing program would not work for them,” she said. “Because they do not have a home to renovate, they’re not looking to purchase a new home — even if they were, they wouldn’t even qualify because of income and their age. So for them the best solution would be some type of cash option.”
The city is aware of the concern and said in the coming months a reparations committee will work with people in the community to see where the additional money for the local reparations program will go.
The funding set for the housing reparations program is just 4% of $10 million.
Meanwhile, Hill is in the process of gathering documents to help her relatives who are eligible apply for the program and said this brings back memories of what her parents who are now deceased had to go through.
“They worked twice as hard to get half as much and home ownership is basically everybody’s dream, everybody’s right of passage,” she said. “To not be able to achieve it just because you’re Black and it was a well-oiled machine and finally get to see some of that might be tangible in my lifetime is quite emotional.”
The city said a reparations committee will review applicants and determine approval. The city hopes to open applications to residents sometime during the summer.