Story at a glance
- Eligible applicants can receive up to $25,000 in grant money to pursue home ownership.
- Reparations have been touted as a solution for lingering racist wealth gaps rooted in slavery.
The Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill., made history on Monday as its city council voted to approve a local reparations bill that focuses on eradicating systemic racial barriers in housing, the first of its kind in the U.S.
In an 8-1 vote, Evanston City Council members elected to adopt Resolution 37-R-21, implementing a restorative housing program with $400,000 in government funding.
“It is an important but a small first step,” Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty (D) said during an Evanston City Council meeting on Monday.
The program focuses on “preserving, stabilizing, and increasing homeownership, which builds intergenerational wealth among Black/African-American residents.”
Historically, many communities in the U.S. would use racist zoning laws and neighborhood redlining to restrict Black Americans from home ownership opportunities.
The Restorative Housing Program would work within the city’s larger Reparations Subcommittee. Fiscally, it will allocate the first 3 percent of a larger $10 million budget. This money was primarily cultivated through a three percent tax on legalized marijuana sales.
Some of the pillars of the initiative include $25,000 allocations for qualifying residents to put towards purchasing, repairing or restoring a home, as well as mortgage assistance.
Eligible residents for these reparations within the housing reparations program are Black or African American residents of Evanston who had an ancestor living in the city between 1919 and 1969, or a citizen who lived in the city during this timeframe.
Individuals may also apply if they have experienced housing discrimination due to Evanston’s policies after 1969 as well, regardless of ancestry.
Following the Black Lives Matter protests in the Summer of 2020, calls for reparations grew louder as more emphasis was placed on the wealth gap endured by Black Americans as a lingering repercussion of the country’s history of legalized slavery and institutional racism.
Robin Rue Simmons, the alderman for Evanston’s 5th Ward and City Council member, first introduced the idea of reparations to Black residents in 2019.
“Resources were stripped away from the Black community, and that stripped away a sense of place and wealth as well,” Simmons explained on ABC News.
Other cities in the U.S. have flirted with issuing reparations, such as Asheville, N.C., but have yet to formally enact it.
“There is a lifetime of work ahead of me and my children for us to get to justice for the Black community,” Simmons stated. “My hope is that families that are currently living here right now today that are burdened get some relief and build some wealth through our reparations program.”