The Chicago suburb of Evanston, Illinois, is about to become the first U.S. city to make reparation money available to Black residents. Part of a growing movement that has picked up speed in the wake of police killings of Black Americans including George Floyd last year, the decision by Evanston officials could also lay the groundwork for other municipalities and states considering reparations.
“It doesn’t mean every city will do it exactly like Evanston has done, but there’s a blueprint there,” Ron Daniels, who oversees the National African American Reparations Commission, or NAARC, told CBS MoneyWatch.
The Evanston City Council voted 8-1 Monday night to start with an expenditure of $400,000 to give 16 eligible Black households $25,000 each to be spent on home repairs or down payments on property. Funded by a new tax on legalized marijuana, the council previously committed $10 million over 10 years to repairing the ongoing harm that systemic racism has caused Evanston’s Black residents, with the housing initiative its first step. About 16% of Evanston residents are Black.
National advocacy groups that advised Evanston on its action expressed optimism that other cities and states would follow suit, leading to further pressure for national legislation.
“We’re very excited to see the first national direct benefit from some of the harms we’ve had to experience from the past,” Kamm Howard, co-chair of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, or N’COBRA, told CBS MoneyWatch “The more local initiatives occur, the more impetus there is on the federal government to act.”
NAARC’s Daniels agreed: “This is no longer a fringe issue. It gets at the critical issue of addressing and redressing the systematic racism that is one of the original sins of this nation.”
The effort in Evanston was led by Robin Rue Simmons, an alderwoman who will join the commission when her term ends.
Ongoing mortgage discrimination in Evanston and other parts of the country justify tackling years of abusive housing practices in any reparations program, according to Howard. “We brought in experts to look at current conditions to justify a housing initiative as a first initiative,” he said of his group’s work in the suburb just north of Chicago.
One 2019 analysis by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found that Black and Latino mortgage applicants were charged higher interest — an average of nearly 0.08% — and heavier refinance fees when compared with white borrowers.