Evanston aldermen tonight are scheduled to discuss a proposal to expand affordable housing options in the city by legalizing the rental of coach houses to people who aren’t family members or employees of the household living in the main building on the lot.

Aldermen earlier this year rejected a suggestion from city staff that the city impose rent control on coach houses as part of any liberalization of the occupancy rules.

The liberalization proposal was then sent to the Plan Commission, which endied up tied on whether to recommend the change to Council.

The revised version of the plan staff will present to aldermen tonight adds two restrictions.

One change would limit the number of coach houses on a lot to one per single-family detached dwelling.

The other would require that a coach house must contain a garage — based on the idea that coach houses were originally designed to house carriages to be pulled by horses.

However another city zoning provision limits the height of newly-constructed accessory dwelling units to 14,5 feet if they have a flat roof, or 20 feet to the peak of a pitched roof.

A coach house in the 1700 block of Wesley Avenue.

That, combined with the garage requirement, would make it difficult to build a traditional coach house design — with garage space on the first level and living space above — without seeking a zoning variation.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to hear just such a variation request on April 17 from a homeowner seeking to build a coach-house-like structure with a garage below and an artist’s studio above on a lot at 1503 Church St.

Examples, from the 1800 block of Wesley Avenue, of modern coach house designs that appear to comply with the height limits in the zoning code.

Related stories

Plan Commission splits on coach houses (3/15/18)

Aldermen reject coach house rent control (1/30/18)

City staff wants rent control for coach houses (1/29/18)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. What is special about coach

    What is special about coach houses?  I know several people who rent out their basements to individuals or families – why is that ok but coach houses need to be so complicated?

    1. Basements?

      Those basement rentals may (or may not) be flying under the radar of the code enforcement officials.

      That’s also true of some coach house rentals under the current rules.

      — Bill

      1. Basement Apartments

        Most non permitted basement units fly under the radar and the few the city knows about fall into the grey area of unpermitted construction. Any action involves Building Division, Property Standards, Zoning, Fire, and Legal Dept. staff members working together. If you think everyone in this group can or wants to collaborate on an action you would be mistaken. Bureaucracy at its worst. It’s so lucrative records indicate court ordered basement apartment tear outs have been known to be rebuilt over a weekend by local real estate investors. Until someone dies there won’t be any pressure by the elected officials to act. This doesn’t mean they should be torn out, just made safe to occupy.

  2. Affordable Coach House Rentals
    I suppose it’s all a matter of perspective, but my experience in looking for rental in Evanston was that a coach house is certainly not going to fall in any ‘affordable housing’ category. The people who own the main houses have invested quite heavily in their properties. The City of Evanston taxes them quite heartily for it, and they are going to demand a rent that is equitable for their investment.
    Keep squeezing though

  3. More big government
    For decades the city banned the construction of coach houses but did not have an ordinance requiring that only family members could live in them. Then a few years ago the city allowed construction of coach houses but initiated the ban of non-family members from renting all coach houses. I have no idea. Just because the city wants to be on control of everything.

    Now, the city wants to remove the ban but restrict the construction of new coach houses again. This is just another big government bureaucratic mentality that permeates our city government that governs in big circles.

  4. Lifting of Restrictions on Coachhouse Rental
    To Whom It May Concern:

    My family has lived in Evanston for 4 generations. I grew up here and wanted to raise my children here. I wanted my kids to go to great schools and be exposed to the multicultural aspects of this city. I am highly educated and have served on several Boards of agencies of the city.

    I am saddened, angry, and in shock about this change in rental zoning standards.

    Several years ago, I had to leave my home of nearly 16 years because there were restrictions about who could rent coach houses and who could not. My family was forced out of the home we lived in after the required census was determined by the city. This expectation created a huge division in our neighborhood. Those against an exclusion “reasoned” that renting our coach house would lower value of home and property and bring in less than desirable renters. They also scared/threatened those who were supportive when they expressed their support.

    The Alderman and the housing Board voted against approval of the rental status. The vote was close with one abstention.

    Ironically, the neighbors who were so against this arrangement allowed the new owner to rent without threat of fines and removal from property. The hypocrisy was palatable. Many houses have been sold and resold since we have moved and the property values have not gone down, the race and socioeconomic status of the renters has not been called in to question.

    Due to the vote the Board/Alderman, this change may bring a great deal of relief for those who have coach houses now while my family is forced to live in lower income neighborhood. With my income my family could have afforded to remain in the property had we been able to rent out the coach house as supplemental income. My family suffered a great deal with the short sidedness of the board and the selfishness and hypocrisy of the neighbors.

    I am completely disappointed, discouraged and frustrated with the change of opinion discussed above.

    Many residents will experience relief and financial stability (or gain) from the Zoning Board’s consideration and insight. Many other residents will experience insult and painful memories from the inconsideration and lack of insight.

    There is no recourse for this decision and I will need to let this go as I have had to let go of many factors during our move.
    I wish The City of Evanston and exclusive residents have insight about how their choices affected my family and others in Evanston.

    I have always loved Evanston despite its foibles and difficulties. My respect and esteem for those who run this city will always be tainted.

    Warm regards,
    Name Withheld

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