Chicago suburbs approve landmark plan to pay repairs to black residents

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CHICAGO (Reuters) – The Chicago suburb of Evanston has become the first U.S. city to offer restitution allowances to black residents whose families have suffered lasting damage due to decades of segregation and discriminatory practices.

City council voted 8-1 Monday to begin distributing $ 400,000 to eligible black residents through grants of $ 25,000 for home repairs, down payments or mortgage payments in a nod to the fight. historically racist housing policies.

“I am proud of our community for taking this bold and courageous action to begin the process of correcting the racial disparities that have plagued our black community for decades,” Alderman Ann Rainey said in a statement.

In November 2019, Evanston City Council committed $ 10 million over a decade to the effort to redress a new legalized marijuana tax. City council members said the housing plan is just the first of what they hope will be in a series of programs to tackle past discriminatory practices in areas such as education and economic development. .

The effort in Evanston, where about 16% of the 75,000 residents are black, could become a model for other cities and states considering whether to pursue their own redress initiatives.

The burgeoning national movement gained traction as a means of accounting for racial inequalities after the police murder of George Floyd and other black Americans last year.

Under the Evanston plan, a limited number of black residents are entitled to $ 25,000 each if they, or their ancestors, lived in the town between 1919 and 1969 or if they can show they suffered a discrimination in housing due to city policies.

Like everywhere in the United States, blacks in Evanston were subjected to redlining, a practice in which banks refused to grant housing loans in predominantly black neighborhoods. This prevented black residents from owning homeowners, a vital source of wealth.

The practicality of implementing reparation programs, especially at the national level, is still a matter of debate.

Some opponents ask if taxpayers can afford to pay what could be billions, if not trillions of dollars, and wonder how eligibility would be determined.

Evanston Rejects Racist Reparations, an opposition group, noted that upfront payments from the town’s housing program will only cover 16 households. The group is also opposed to limiting the money only to housing needs.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Edited by Colleen Jenkins and Matthew Lewis

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