This month, the City of Evanston, IL, will make history as the first City to pay reparations to it’s African-American residents. In March, after two years of research, proposals and community meetings, Evanston’s city council voted 8-1 to launch a reparations program called the “Restorative Housing Program.” The application period began on Sept. 21 and this month 16 applicants will receive $25,000 each in housing reparations.
For about a century, city policies and laws confined most Black residents to an area called the Fifth Ward. Today, houses in this area are valued at half the value of homes just across the canal, the line that divided Black residents where only Whites could live. This policy harmed Black Evanston residents, greatly impacting their family wealth.
The Restorative Housing Program may not eliminate the Black/White wealth gap in Evanston, but it will give some much-needed help to the city’s historic Black families and their ancestors, who are still suffering from the lack of generational wealth that resulted from these policies.
To qualify, people must have identified as Black on an official document, be at least 70 years old and have lived in Evanston at some point between 1919 and 1969. The program defines these applicants as “ancestors.” The children and grandchildren of Black people who lived in Evanston during that time period, called “descendants,” can apply for future payments. The money will not be given in cash, but paid directly toward a mortgage balance, down payment on a home purchase, property taxes or to a home improvement contractor. The property must be in Evanston.
The program is funded by a tax on recently legalized marijuana sold in Evanston. The first payments, totaling $400,000, are part of $10 million Evanston has pledged over a decade to begin repairing the damage caused by official city policies