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First round of Evanston reparations to fund housing

(The Center Square) – An Illinois city has become the first to offer reparations to Black residents.

The city of Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, has decided to distribute $10 million to Black residents, the first wave of which will be $400,000 to those who suffered from unfair housing ordinances outlawed in 1969 among other things.

Evanston Alderman Robin Rue Simmons said her city was doing well in most matters of racial equity, but there was still a hole in this area.

“Reparations would be a legislative tool to use to target and remedy the injury to the black community due to our specifically our housing policies,” Simmons said.

Evanston’s housing and zoning policies restricted Black people to living in a particular corridor of the city, Simmons said.

“That area was also disinvested in and stripped of necessary community amenities as well as other forms of discrimination and racial oppression,” she said.

This was above and beyond the redlining that together helped create a racial divide and segregation within the city, Simmons said.

The city will pay residents who either lived, or are direct descendants of those who lived, in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 reparations in the form of $25,000 to go toward the purchase of a home or home improvements.

Simmons said it will help start the healing process.

“Because the Black community is feeling heard, and we are responding with policy, with funding, with programming that will begin to repair our community,” Simmons said.

Simmons is herself one of those who qualify for reparations, as a direct descendent of Evanston residents who lived within the discriminatory housing policy period.

Funding for the reparations is mainly from marijuana sales tax revenues. Simmons points out this is important because of the role marijuana and over-policing played in the community.

“We know how marijuana arrests or any criminal record puts barriers between workforce or job opportunities, housing opportunities, student loan opportunities, and those damages have continued to impact families, and unhealthy families of course impact the neighborhood,” Simmons said.

Simmons said this is just the first step. The city will continue to discuss further reparations with the remainder of the $10 million. Information is available at cityofevanston.org/reparations.

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