Nov 1, 2023 - News

Most Evanston residents support city's reparations program, survey finds

Photo illustration of a silhouette of a Black woman with collaged archival photos, fragments of dollar bills and a redlining map.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Clarence Gatson Collection/Gado/Getty Images, Dave Randolph/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images, National Archives via Mapping Inequality

Most Evanston residents support the city's reparations program, according to a yearlong survey.

Why it matters: The survey is the first major assessment of how Evanston residents feel about the reparations program since it was passed by City Council in 2019.

Driving the news: Northwestern University, in partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago, reported late last month that roughly 64% of more than 3,360 residents surveyed support the city's program to distribute reparations to Black residents for housing and mortgage assistance.

State of play: In 2019, Evanston became the first U.S. city to establish a reparations program, and two years later passed an ordinance to allocate the first $10 million of a 3% tax on legal marijuana sales to a housing program for Black Evanstonians.

  • "By consensus, we started with housing because housing is a predeterminate for most all things livability wise and is also the most likely path to building wealth for any family," former Evanston alderperson Robin Rue Simmons, who led the passage of the reparations program, told City Cast Chicago.

How it works: An applicant must have been a Black resident of Evanston between 1919 and 1969, or be a direct descendant of someone who meets that criterion.

  • Since the program launched, 91 people have each received up to $25,000, for a total of more than $2,250,000, to help with down payments, mortgage assistance, home improvement costs or other expenses.

Of note: Earlier this year, City Council expanded the program to allow direct cash payments with no strings attached after some pushed back on restrictions on the money, PBS reported.

By the numbers: 64% of Black respondents to the survey support Evanston's reparations program.

  • 70% of white respondents, 61% of Latinos and 62% of Asians are supportive.

Yes, but: That number is much lower nationwide, with 30% of adults supporting reparations for descendants of enslaved people, according to a 2021 Pew Research survey.

  • Northwestern's Alvin Tillery Jr. says the Evanston community's support didn't come as a surprise given its highly educated population, which has been "very engaged in conversations about racial equity over the past several years," but it was overall higher than expected.

What they're saying: "I think the results of our survey show that local communities have the ability to … design narrowly tailored policies aimed at repairing racial harms without generating intergroup conflict," Tillery tells Axios. "I think it makes the city a great model for doing this vital racial justice work."

What we're watching: Chicago's Subcommittee on Reparations has met only once since it formed in 2020, WTTW reported, and Mayor Brandon Johnson's transition plan in July promised a bureau to handle reparations.

  • That bureau has yet to become a reality, and the mayor's office did not respond to Axios' question about its status.
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