Evanston aldermen Monday night are scheduled to review a staff report that suggests an array of options for creating additional affordable housing units in the city.

Here are some of the major suggestions in the 30-page report.

Relax zoning restrictions

One idea would loosen zoning restrictions on existing accessory dwelling units — also known as coach houses or granny flats. Currently in Evanston such units can only be rented to family members or caregivers, which, the staff report says , limits their effectiveness as a tool for “integrating lower income households in single family neighborhoods with high housing costs.

The report cites MinneapolisPortland, Oregon, and Durango, Colorado, as communities that have taken that path.

It also suggests revising zoning restrictions to allow development of new accessory dwelling units in new construction projects and in single-family neighborhoods with lots large enough to accommodate an accessory structure.

The report also suggests changing regulations to permit construction of small homes on small lots that wouldn’t be allowed now — an idea tried in Los Angeles, Seattle and Austin, Texas.

It also suggests revising occupancy rules to provide greater flexibility in home sharing. Evanston now allows no more than three unrelated people to live in a dwelling unit, regardless of its size. The report says Boulder, Colorado, is developing a program to allow home sharing among seniors based on occupancy standards rather than the relationships of the residents.

Squeeze developers harder

The report suggests the city could increase fee-in-lieu payments required of developers from $100,000 to $150,000 for every 10 units in a project in transit oriented development areas and from $75,000 to $100,000 in other parts of town.

It also suggests making developers deliver the fee-in-lieu papyments earlier in the development process.

It also suggests imposing a new “impact fee” on smaller developments not covered by the existing inclusionary housing ordinance. It notes that Marin County, California imposes a fee of $5 to $10 per square foot on new homes larger than 2,000 square feet, and that Redwood City, California, imposes a $25 per square foot impact fee on developments that include five or more single family homes.

Other strategies

The report also suggests that the city could contribute city-owned land “such as underused parking lots” to new affordable housing developments and it suggests trying to better leverage existing state and federal funding sources as well as encouraging major employers to develop programs to assist their lower-income employees to find housing here.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Property owners are getting squeezed

    City officials already have milions to play with in affordable housing funds but apparently that isn’t enough. See, the more money our elected leaders dole out to the masses the more votes they get. 

    Rather than squeeze developers or relax zoning restrictions how about reducing property taxes and other goverment regulations that hinder business growth. Because the reality right now is our local, county and state government are squeezing hardworking low – middle class property owners.

    Evanston needs more businesses that pay better not more taxes.

  2. Affordable Housing Question

    With all these stories lately on affordable housing, I am curious to know what % of housing does the federal goverment require Evanston to provide and what is the current actual %.  I’m wondering if Evanston is currently below, meeting, or exceeding this government mandated number.   

    1. Affordability standards

      Hi Neil,

      The “requirement” for affordable housing that you’re thinking of is a state, not a federal, rule.

      As described in this document from the Illinois Housing Development Authority, 15.4 percent of the housing units in Evanston are considered to be affordable to someone making 80 percent of area median income, and thus Evanston is exempt from the state program.

      That program requires non-exempt municipalities — those with less than 10 percent affordable housing — to develop a plan to address the problem — but it doesn’t actually require them to close the gap.

      Non-exempt communities include Glencoe (1.4% affordable), Glenview (7.4%), Highland Park (6.7%), Lake Forest (5.6%), Northbrook (4.4%), Wilmette (4.1%) and Winnetka (2.5%).

      — Bill

      1. Thank you for the information

        Thank you for the information!  I found it very interesting.  Seems like we are already well above the curve.  Especially when compared to many of our neighboring communities.  So basically then (IMO) forcing these newer high rise developements to pay $ for “x” amount of units or offer “x” amount of units add lower rents has little to do with affordable housing and more just a cash grab.  I guess if developers (seems like a lot lately) still view these projects as good investments after factoring in these “fees” then it isnt a huge deal as not hurting potential growth. Just funny how it seems to be using affodable housing as a guise to make sure everyone feels good while taking more $$.

      2. Affordable Housing

        The tax increases in Evanston have made many homes in the City unaffordable to their current residents. It’s apparent that the City is more concerned about public relations than they are about the current residents being priced out of their homes.

        As the current elected officials vote to massively increase the population density beyond the infrastructure capacity, the tax burden can only increase as the City moves to handle the increased congestion and it’s attendent issues with streets, sewers, water and additional manpower needs.

        At least the developers and those who finance them will make their money while the City Council votes for ever increasing budgets and taxes making housing even more unaffordable for the residents.

        My neighbors say that it’s “revenues over residents.” In this case, it seems to me that it’s private profits, even for the nonprofits,  and socialized costs.

        1. Infrastructure

          Hi Herb,

          Evanston Now looked into the relationship between new development and property taxes in a story in August.

          For every new development recently of which I’m aware, city staff has concluded that the existing infrastructure was sufficient, or that the developer was covering the cost of needed improvements.

          If you have evidence to the contrary, I’d appreciate it if you’d share it.

          — Bill

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