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Affordable housing measures derailed

Reform of occupancy rule that discriminates based on familial status tabled. Moratorium on some accessory dwelling units introduced.

An Evanston ordinance bars more than three unrelated individuals from living together -- regardless of the size of their dwelling unit. (Graphics from Shutterstock)

Evanston’s City Council moved to impose new restrictions on accessory dwelling units Monday night and banished a plan to repeal discriminatory occupancy limits to a yet-to-be-formed subcommittee.

The full Council voted to introduce a six-month moratorium on approving non-owner-occupied internal and attached accessory dwelling units, responding to fears of near-campus homeowners that allowing the ADUs would encourage absentee landlords to convert single-family homes to student rentals.

The Council had voted just last summer to liberalize the city’s granny flat or coach house rules to permit a variety of ADU configurations, a move favored by affordable housing advocates who believe it will increase the supply of moderate income housing in the city.

Alds. Tom Suffredin (6th), Devon Reid (8th) and Cicely Fleming (9th) cast the only votes against the moratorium.

A city staff proposal to repeal definitions of “family” in the city’s zoning code and lift a ban on more than three unrelated individuals sharing a dwelling unit was tabled in the Planning and Development Committee until January on a motion of Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th). Her motion carried 6-1 with Reid casting the only dissenting vote.

Under the staff proposal the city would have relied on square-footage limits set in the city’s housing code to determine how many people could occupy a structure, regardless of their familial relationship.

Various city panels have wrestled with possible revisions to the three-unrelated rule for decades without leading to any actual reform.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) said she agreed that the city’s definition of family is obsolete, but said the Council needed “to react thoughtfully and not just politically” to the issue. She and Revelle proposed creating a subcommittee of the Planning and Development Committee to consider new rules.

During public comment several affordable housing advocates spoke in favor of eliminating the three-unrelated rule — saying that, among other things, the rule makes it impossible for groups of older adults to share a home as a way to make living in Evanston on a limited retirement income more affordable.

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