Rogers Park’s bustling energy is immediately discernible after getting off at the CTA Jarvis stop. A coin laundry service sits beside a pet salon, and across the road rests a quaint cafe with a street-beat ambiance provided by the melodies of Earl Sweatshirt.

Charmer’s Cafe is one of Weinberg fourth-year Myckynzie Schroeder’s favorite places to study and grab a bite to eat. The spot, one of the many restaurants she enjoys in the area, is a five-minute walk from her apartment on West Fargo Avenue. Rogers Park’s cheaper prices and later hours present a stark contrast to the early-to-bed eateries Northwestern students are accustomed to in Evanston.

“In the summer, [Rogers Park] had a lot of cool little arts festivals and salsa nights in the street,” Schroeder says, petting her cat Suki in the living room of her 13th-floor apartment. “In the winter, it’s harder to find that kind of stuff, but there’s kind of always something going on nearby.”

Schroeder and her roommate Weinberg fourth-year Bintou Sonko’s two-bedroom apartment costs $1,550 per month. Compared to Evanston’s prices, it’s not only a steal, but also better quality.

“I pay less for my apartment here and it’s probably one and a half times the size of our old place and it has so many more amenities,” Sonko says. “In my old place, the floors were really creaky. You couldn’t really get maintenance when you needed it.”

Neighborhoods close to Chicago’s downtown area are appealing to younger crowds looking for a bustling nightlife, a larger variety of cuisines and, like Sonko and Schroeder, cheaper rent. Though housing in Evanston is convenient for the more campus-centralized undergraduate student body, its rising prices push some students elsewhere.

Uptown, for instance, is within walking distance of Argyle’s Asian eateries and Andersonville’s shops. Driskill graduate student Ari Halle attends Northwestern’s Chicago campus and lives in an Uptown studio apartment with their partner. They each pay around $500 a month for split rent and utilities.

Because they don’t own a car, Halle says the commute to campus is 45 minutes, including the walk to and from the Red Line and the ride itself. However, between their home and campus, they say there are plenty of restaurants and entertainment venues.

“It’s really easy for me to take the train two stops down and there’s a whole new group of restaurants because I’m in a completely different neighborhood,” they say. “I feel like I’ve definitely had to branch out and eat out at different restaurants a lot more.”

McCormick fourth-year Alex Cindric’s Lakeview East apartment is even closer to downtown Chicago than Schroeder’s. She pays around $800 a month for her room, a solid $100 cheaper than the Evanston rent prices she came across while looking for housing.

Cindric’s roommate, Segal Master’s student Lindsay Lipschultz, says the apartment’s accessibility to the CTA made the move appealing.

“In Evanston, it always felt like a major drag to go to a nice restaurant or a concert,” Lipschultz says. “Now, it’s like a 20-minute ride on the bus.”

Despite students’ positive experiences with lower rent prices closer to the city, others, like Evanston landlord Jeanne Laseman, have seen housing rates rise across Chicago. Laseman currently lives in and leases out rooms in a house on the corner of Golf Road and McCormick Boulevard in Evanston, about a 10-minute drive, 13-minute bike ride or 45-minute walk from campus. She charges around $650 per month for a room, which includes utilities and laundry.

But Laseman says students haven’t been as keen to take her offer as she expected.

“I find that kind of interesting, that dynamic, because I’m cheaper,” she says. “It’s just not the location that they want in Evanston.”

Laseman’s rent is an anomaly in a city where the average cost is around $900. Just a few years ago, Evanston’s high prices stood out like a sore thumb. But gentrification, a process where lower-income residents are displaced to areas farther away from the city due to high-priced buy-outs, has made many places along the northern stretch of the CTA Red Line similarly expensive.

While gentrification accounts for the rising rent prices around Chicago, Evanston has always been on the high end of the spectrum. According to Laseman, the tax structure of the city accounts for an increased reliance on tenant funds.

Northwestern doesn’t pay property taxes despite continually expanding on city property, Laseman says. She adds that a multitude of non-profit organizations and churches are also exempt from property taxes, which places a heavier tax burden on the small number of retail businesses that have become integral to the city’s revenue.

Apartments for lease are also subject to Evanston’s elevated property taxes, and as a result, rent prices have increased.

“Across Chicagoland and in Evanston, because rent prices are rising so fast, they’re pretty much on par with each other. It’s expensive across the board.”

Kiley Korey, Bienen Private Choral Student

Kiley Korey, who has been taking private choral lessons at Bienen, chose an apartment in Rogers Park about two years ago when she moved to the Chicago area. The Rogers Park area is diverse and family-friendly, she says.

According to her, rent prices in Evanston were exceedingly high at the time. But now, Korey is thinking about moving to Evanston to get more bang for her buck — that is, a quicker commute for the same price.

“Across Chicagoland and in Evanston, because rent prices are rising so fast, they’re pretty much on par with each other,” Korey says. “It’s expensive across the board.” Korey adds that the CTA Red Line has been “unreliable” over the past few years, and she worries about her safety where she lives in Rogers Park.

“I don’t walk outside, even in the daytime, just for safety reasons, because there have been a couple of domestic violence disputes and shootings within a two-block radius of my place,” Korey says.

Schroeder’s sense of safety is slightly different. Her neighborhood, she says, mostly consists of elderly people. She notes that a few graduate students and faculty members live on her block and says the area is “pretty safe.”

For Sonko, however, Northwestern’s institutional presence in Evanston has resulted in an additional layer of police accountability that Rogers Park doesn’t have.

Sonko says as a Black woman, the high racial profiling in the Rogers Park area has made her feel unsafe because the police are more willing to intervene forcefully in encounters with Black people in Chicago. On her way towards the Howard Red Line station, Sonko says she has seen multiple police cars stop Black individuals for simple traffic violations.

“If something were to happen to a Black [NU] student, [EPD and NUPD] have someone to answer to,” she says. “Whereas if something happens with a Black person walking on the street, the city of Chicago doesn’t care.”

Halle, who is white and non-binary, also feels uncomfortable with the high, largely unregulated, Chicago police presence. They highlight the Chicago police’s history of targeting visibly transgender individuals for arrests, particularly under the suspicion of sex work, as a key reason for their discomfort.

Still, Halle says that their whiteness helps protect them from forceful police encounters, which is often targeted at Black residents. In the predominately-white North Side where Halle lives, they say their race helps them blend in.

“I don’t stick out as much and that makes me feel safer,” they say. “But for a lot of people, it would make them feel less safe if they did stick out.”

Schroeder and Sonko’s apartment has more security than their previous Evanston build. The pair’s sophomore-year apartment on Noyes Street periodically had broken locks near the entryway, making the building essentially open to the public, according to Schroeder.

“This entire building very much feels a lot more secure,” she says. “Our units have these electronic locks on them.”

“I think landlords in Evanston are used to naive college kids just picking a place and moving in and not really looking at leases or being picky about health standards.”

Kalina Pierga, Medill fourth-year

For some, the quality of housing in Evanston still leaves much to be desired. Medill fourth-year Kalina Pierga lived in Evanston during her sophomore and junior years and encountered a legal issue with her lease in September 2021.

After finding out that her house on Foster Street contained mold levels above livable limits, she contacted her landlord, but ultimately received no assistance. She and her roommates backed out of their lease and had to find last-minute living accommodations. The lack of landlord accountability made Pierga feel wary about the conditions of Evanston student housing.

“I think landlords in Evanston are used to naive college kids just picking a place and moving in and not really looking at leases or being picky about health standards,” she says. “I’m sure a lot of other students encountered these situations, and they’re not in a position to have any type of background knowledge of real estate law.”

Pierga now lives at home in Barrington, Illinois, an hour away from campus, which she says has been easier since she will be conducting her Journalism Residency in Philadelphia during Spring Quarter.

A window in Schroeder and Sonko’s Rogers Park apartment unveils a crystal clear view of the Bienen School of Music. Schroeder continues to list her apartment’s amenities: laundry on every floor, a gym in the basement and a double-doored entrance with a part-time security guard.

She walks downstairs and reveals an all-access patio and storage lockers. In her previous and much-older Noyes Street apartment in Evanston, laundry was in the basement, and a cluster of dead cockroaches occupied a hole in the wall. She says the apartment’s ambient temperature was once in the 50s for two weeks.

For Schroeder, the move from Evanston to Rogers Park was worth it. When asked if she knew others who considered leaving Evanston, she says many are interested, but drawbacks like distance often leave them discouraged.

“It feels like a lot. And I’m not going to say it’s not because there are definitely times where my car hasn’t started in the morning and I’ve been late because I couldn’t just walk to campus,” she says. “It’s not all pros, but I do think overall, it balances.”





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