The lack of affordable housing is an issue affecting communities throughout the country and Chicago's northern suburbs are no exception. The Lake County Framework Plan indicates that the median housing value in Lake County increased 81% over the past 30 years while the median household income only increased 24% during that same period. According to the City of Evanston’s 2015-2019 Consolidated Plan, over 38% of residents are housing cost burdened. Housing costs have dramatically outpaced the growth in personal income, making housing less affordable for everyone and not affordable at all for many.
The lack of affordable housing also makes it difficult for local businesses to hire and retain employees. Data from the Illinois Department of Employment Security shows that of some 12,000 people who work for Highland Park businesses, nearly 80% are employed in the service and retail sectors where the average annual salary is below $35,000. Interviews with public sector employers tell a similar story. Salaries for school employees, nonprofit staff, artists, city employees, health care workers, retail staff and others put housing in the area out of reach.
Many families who are faced with the death of a wage-earner, residents who are going through a divorce, seniors and persons with disabilities are pushed out of the community. These trends have made it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to maintain diverse, healthy and sustainable communities.
Safe, decent and affordable housing is a basic, under met need for area residents and employees. CPAH is one of the few entities addressing the lack of affordable housing in the region and it is the only entity that builds a permanent inventory of housing which will remain affordable forever to address the communities’ current and future affordable housing needs.