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The Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, has become the first U.S. city to offer reparations to Black residents whose families suffered lasting damage due to decades of housing segregation and discriminatory lending practices.
The Evanston City Council voted 8-1 Monday to begin distributing $400,000 to eligible Black residents through $25,000 grants for home repairs, down payments or mortgage payments in an attempt to address historically racist housing policies.
“I’m proud of our community for taking this bold and courageous action to begin the process of remedying racial disparities that have harmed our Black community for decades,” Alderwoman Ann Rainey said in a statement.
In November 2019, the municipal assembly committed $10 million over a decade to this effort from a new tax on legalized marijuana.
Evanston, where about 16% of the 75,000 residents are Black, could become a model for other cities and states grappling their own reparations initiatives.
The burgeoning movemen for reparations has gained traction as a way to fight racial inequity following the police killing of George Floyd and countless numbers of Black Americans.
Through Evanston’s plan, a limited number of Black residents are eligible to receive $25,000 each if they, or their ancestors, lived in the city between 1919 and 1969 or if they can prove they suffered housing discrimination due to the city’s policies.
Evanston, IL will be the first city in the U.S. to give Black people cash reparations.
The city council approved the initial $400,000 of payments for Black families affected by discriminatory practices. It has agreed to pay $10 million to eligible families over 10 years. pic.twitter.com/hMWEQxo4zW
As across the United States, Black people in Evanston were subjected to “redlining,” a practice in which banks refused to make housing loans in predominantly Black neighborhoods, which kept Black residents from home ownership—a key source of wealth formation.
Some opponents of reparations ask whether taxpayers can afford to pay what could be billions, or even trillions, of dollars, and question how eligibility would be determined.
Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations, for example, has noted the initial payments from the city’s housing program will cover only 16 households and also opposes restricting the money to just housing needs, while proponents state that housing plan is just the first in what they hope to be a series of inicitatives to address historically discriminatory practices in areas such as education and economic development.