Evanston, IL

Evanston Established the First Reparations Fund for Residents

Tom Handy

City to pay black residents 10 million reparations for discrimination.

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Evanston Illinois image created on Canva

The Evanston’s City Council in Illinois voted 8–1 on Monday to approve the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program. This grant qualifies households up to $25,000 for down payments or home repairs.

In November 2019, the City Council established a reparations fund addressing historical wealth and opportunity gaps for Black residents. Funding would come from the city’s tax on the sale of recreational marijuana for the first $10 million.

Evanston, in the northern part of Chicago, eligible residents will receive up to $25,000 as part of the reparations fund. The program hopes to end the racist redlining that prevented residents from buying homes.

There is a 3% tax on the adult use of marijuana. Recreational adult use of marijuana in Illinois was approved on January 1, 2020.

Evanston adults aged 21 and over can purchase or use up to 30 grams, or about one ounce, of marijuana plant material, edibles totaling no more than 500mg of THC, and five grams of cannabis concentrate products. Non-residents can purchase half those amounts.

Taxes for marijuana and cannabis-infused products varies. Medical marijuana is exempt from taxes.

Marijuana and cannabis-infused products with less than 35% THC are taxed at 10% of the purchase price. Products with more than 35% THC are taxed at 20% of the purchase price. Marijuana with more than 35% THC is taxed at 25% of the purchase price.

Consumption of marijuana is only allowed in one's private space, dispensaries that allow marijuana use. Using marijuana in public is not allowed.

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

Robin Rue Simmons, an alderwoman and architect of the reparations program said,

We have a large and unfortunate gap in wealth, opportunity, education, even life expectancy. 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.”
We had to do something radically different to address the racial divide that we had in our city, which includes historic oppression, exclusion and divestment in the Black community.”

Simmons hopes the program creates living wage jobs for the 16 percent of Evanston who are black.

Danny Glover spoke in Evanston after the law’s signing and said, “This is the most intense conversation I believe that we’re going to have in the 21st century, right here — reparations.”

Evanston, Illinois reparations YouTube video

City officials wrote, “The strongest case for reparations by the City of Evanston is in the area of housing, where there is sufficient evidence showing the City’s part in housing discrimination as a result of early City zoning ordinances in place between 1919 and 1969, when the City banned housing discrimination.”

The authors wrote that in addition to impacting the daily lives and well-being of thousands of Evanston residents, such policies dictated their education, occupations, property, and wealth in ways that shaped their families for generations.

To qualify for the program, eligible Black residents must either have lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 or be a direct descendant of someone who did.

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A fair housing law was passed in Evanston in 1968, but evidence showed that black people were steered towards a section of town where they were the majority until 1985.

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