Chicago Suburb of Evanston Becomes First U.S. City to Approve Historic Reparations for Black Residents

Evanston, Ill., just north of Chicago, is believed to be the first place in the United States to provide reparations to Black residents after its City Council on Monday approved a plan to address racial discrimination in housing. (Kamil Krzaczynski/AFP via Getty Images)

The city of Evanston, Ill., will make reparations available to eligible Black residents for what it describes as harm caused by “discriminatory housing policies and practices and inaction on the city’s part.” The program is believed to be the first of its kind in the U.S. and is seen by advocates as a potential national model.

Evanston’s City Council voted 8-1 on Monday to approve the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program, an official confirmed to NPR over email. It will grant qualifying households up to $25,000 for down payments or home repairs, according to the city, and is the first initiative of a city reparations fund that was established in 2019.

“The Program is a step towards revitalizing, preserving, and stabilizing [Black] owner-occupied homes in Evanston, increasing homeownership and building the wealth of [Black] residents, building intergenerational equity amongst [Black] residents, and improving the retention rate of [Black] homeowners in the City of Evanston,” reads a draft of the resolution.

In November 2019, the City Council established a reparations fund to support initiatives addressing historical wealth and opportunity gaps for Black residents, to be funded by the first $10 million in revenue from the city’s tax on the sale of recreational marijuana. The housing program is initially budgeted at $400,000.

Robin Rue Simmons, an alderwoman and architect of the reparations program, told NPR in 2019 that the plan aimed to solve a pair of problems facing the community: Black residents being disproportionately arrested for infractions involving marijuana possession, as well as being priced out of their homes.

“We have a large and unfortunate gap in wealth, opportunity, education, even life expectancy,” she said. “The fact that we have a $46,000 gap between census tract 8092, which is the historically red-line neighborhood that I live in and was born in, and the average white household led me to pursue a very radical solution to a problem that we have not been able to solve: reparations.”

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SOURCE: NPR, Rachel Treisman