Evanston city staff will ask aldermen tonight to approve a plan that would let owners rent a coach house to a non-family member only if the tenant was certified by the city to be poor.

The proposal would also impose limits on the rent that could be charged for coach houses or other accessory dwelling units.

The proposed restrictions are contained in a memo that outlines steps the city might take in easing its current rules that make it illegal to rent an accessory dwelling unit to persons who aren’t family members of the occupants of the main house on the property.

The staff memo suggests the new limits would maximize the effectiveness of the program in addressing the need for affordable units.

It does not address how such restrictions might stigmatize tenants in accessory dwelling units or discourage owners from putting such units on the market.

The memo suggests that aldermen refer the proposed restrictions to the Zoning Committee of the Plan Commission for review.

It also suggests developing a scheme to register and inspect existing accessory dwelling units, creating an amnesty program for units constructed without building permits, setting a fee structure for registration and inspection and determing how street addresses would be assigned for accessory units that might be attached to or detached from the primary home.

The proposal is to be discussed by the City Council, along with several other affordable housing schemes, when the aldermen meet at 6 p.m. tonight at the Civic Center.

An Illinois statute prohibits municipalities from “controlling the amount of rent charged for leasing private residential or commercial property” unless the government has an ownership interest in the property.

It’s not clear how the city staff would propose to get around that statutory restriction.

A year ago a state lawmaker introduced a bill that would repeal the ban on rent control. But while the bill has picked up seven co-sponsors, it has yet to make its way out of the Rules Committee in the House.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Is very humiliating to be
    Is very humiliating to be poor from my personal experience.
    …not sure how i would feel as a certified poor person.

    1. This is a ridiculous proposal

      This is a ridiculous proposal. Economists overwhelmingly agree that rent control reduces the quality and quantity of housing. The best way to create affordable housing is the increase the amount of housing. This would effectively do the opposite.

      1. Shawn B. is correct that this

        Shawn B. is correct that this measure will simply remove rental coach houses from the market.  This will ultimately drive up rental prices as fewer rental housing units will be available.  Furthermore, it will also reduce the property tax base in the long run as homeowners will be discouraged from investing in their expensive to maintain coach houses and property values and tax assessments will suffer accordingly.  I am more troubled by a seemingly resentful, discriminatory, and punitive targeting of a tiny segment of homeowners with coach houses.  These homeowners already bear more than their fair share of Evanston Property Taxes and provide Evanston with a small but uniquely attractive segment of the rental housing market that helps make Evanston special.  I was fortunate enough to rent one many years ago.  It brought me to Evanston where I now contribute to Evanston’s property tax base and economy.  Coach houses are an extension of a homeowner’s own home in their backyard.  Does the Evanston City Staff really think that only the caviar-eating Richie Rich’s of this world rent coach houses so they need to be forced to subsidize and help the poor?  Richie Rich’s have no need to generate rental income and assume the thankless hassle-filled job as landlord.  I, as a Progressive/Liberal Democrat, am embarassed by this proposal as this is the stereotypical “Alice in Wonderland” regulations the GOP and Trump uses to discredit other essential and effective regulations.  I am sure this was well-intentioned but it is completely divorced from the required, disciplined, real world Public Policy 101 analysis.  The Evanston City Staff fails in its fiduciary responsibility to the residents of Evanston when they make these decisions devoid of basic economic and business analysis.  There are real world methods to expand affordable housing.  Developers profiting from the residential real estate boom in Evanston should be required to invest in affordable housing developments in Evanston in exchange for the zoning variances for their lucrative real estate deals.  We need to make sure back door sweet heart deals are not being handed out so cheaply instead of punishing a tiny segment of Evanston homeowners for no real benefit to Evanston.

      2. Shawn B. is right!
        This is a sure-fire way to make housing more expensive and hurt the poor most of all. But even if that weren’t the case, i’ts unconstitutional. If you make stipulations on what someone can do with their own property, you are reducing the value of it, which is a “taking” under the 5th amendment eminent domain rule. Whenever there is a taking, the owner must be compensated for the reduction in value.

  2. This makes me feel bad
    This sounds like we are heading backwards in any human equality progress that has been made in Evanston over the prior years. While reading this I got a very uncomfortable “back of the bus” feeling. Perhaps I do not understand the nature of so desperately seeking affordable housing in Evanston that I would allow myself to be labelled/branded as poor in order to qualify for such housing. I think I would prefer to spend the time to look for another community that more completely accepts people of all income levels without requiring labels to find suitable housing.

  3. gone gone gone
    Not that I ever had a coach house, but I’m glad I sold my home and left east Evanston a year ago.

    There is little incentive left for anyone with resources to own in Evanston. High taxation, excessive regulation, and Robin Hood-style government will destroy the value of Evanston’s more affluent pockets.

    I feel really bad for anyone who’s home value is negatively impacted by Evanston’s thoughtless, socialist-leaning government.

  4. Affordable Housing Regulations

    Many perspectives to consider and many questions to ask.

    What is affordable housing and what people qualify? How will the city determine who is certifiably poor? That is, what criteria will be used? How will this be monitored and updated to determine if people are still eligible?

    How many people from each economic strata does City Council want to live in Evanston?

    Both ETHS and District 65 have about 45% of students who are eligible for free and subsidized lunches. That’s one measure, but are there other yardsticks the city is using? 

    And what about lower middle income, middle income and upper middle income families? Who is looking out for their well being? No need to worry about the wealthy.

    In addition to income criteria, is the city focused on other parameters like religion, height, weight, educational experience, race, age, professions (i think we need more doctors and electricians in Evanston), and others?

    If the City of Evanston is going to “engineer” our community, where does it start, where does it stop and what are the “rules?”


  5. Evanston would be a better
    Evanston would be a better place to live if the city would leave the residents alone most of the time. They want to find a way to collect fees to spend on their personal projects.

  6. Rent Control for Coach Houses

    As a rental property owner and a former coach house resident, I think this proposal is preposterous! Why on earth does the City Staff want to targer only one class of (very specialized) rental property with these kinds of limitations?

    People who have coach houses behind their homes use that rental income to offset the very high cost of their property taxes in Evanston… Limiting the amount of income opportunities a home owner has from owning a property with a (rental) coach house seems like some kind of discrimination to me.  Coach houses in Evanston and elsewhere are typically high demand rentals that command a premium on their monthly rent… Methinks a policy like this could adversely affect the property value of homes with a coach house.  Furthermore, coach houses are more expensive to own, maintain and heat than other classes of rentals in Evanston. 

    Why doesnt the City offer a meaningful optional tax incentive to property owners with coach houses to offset their loss of revenue.  This is not a good solution to affordable housing in Evanston.

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

    1. Brian’s comments echo my own.

      Brian’s comments echo my own. This is a ridiculous way to approach an affordable housing problem. 

  7. Coach houses

    In my opinion, property owners should be allowed to rent out their coach houses or granny flats to whomever they wish.

    The City should not limit property rights and people’s right to generate income that they may very well need.

    Moreover, there are scenarios I can envision that make such a requirement unfair to the property owner. One example: Let’s say I have a flat above the garage and the son of a friend is attending NU or some other university; perhaps as a grad student. I want to offer to rent the flat at a moderate price in exchange for her performing some work around my property. i.e. mowing, shopping, whatever. In large part as a favor to my friend. Instead the City wants to force me to rent to someone that the city decides?! This is really outrageous.

    If the City wants low income housing, then the City should either build it and manage it or make building such properties a profitable proposition for private developers or just stay out of it and let the market determine price.

    Some possible solutions …

    I’m not proposing that this is the solution; it’s merely one idea that will be tested out in Hong Kong. Here’s another approach.

    1. basic economics…
      The lack of understanding of economics or any appreciation of second order effects and consequences by city planners is galling…
      First .. no one is getting rich off of coach houses.. in my case I bought a property that had already a coach house that was rented… I collected 6K in rent and spent 5K in repairs and rodent control… (me thinks the city should be held responsible for part of that :))…
      Second.. I don;t rent it to make a profit but rather to help subsidize the HIGH PROPERTY tax and frankly I look for just a nice good neighbor with decent references and I would charge less for a person that is going to pay on time and not smoke .. so high rent is not my objective…
      Third… If anything.. with a regulation like this.. I would take my CH off the market… instead of suffering through inspections… this would literally reduce supply which increases rents in Evanston…

      People wake up these fake progressives are just after more power and control… If they want to make Evanston affordable.. they just should just make it so by making ownership and living here more affordable….

  8. Eminent Domain!
    An Illinois statute prohibits municipalities from “controlling the amount of rent charged for leasing private residential or commercial property” unless the government has an ownership interest in the property.
    Eminent domain is how the city staff would be able get around that statutory restriction.

    1. State Law Does Appear to Say NO to Rent Control
      Evan Stoner is right here – municipalities can’t control the rent unless they have an ownership interest:

      Here is the link:

      Before jumping to this and trying to start off with rent control, it would be great to see the city answer some of the many questions that have been posed. I thought I saw that there was already a group that had formed to start to do this. A knee jerk reaction to rent control and throwing money at landlords isn’t going to solve anything until the solution scope is better defined.

      1. Rent Control Gaining Steam at State Level?

        Looks like there is a push to eliminate the state law against rent control: Whoever wins the governor race will have a large impact on this moving forward.

  9. This is beyond asinine

    But scary as there will be a certain number of folks who will think this is a good and fair idea.

    Hell no!  Personal and private property rights should be robust, even in our nanny state city. No one in their right mind would spend their own money to maintain and improve property that the city would effectively control.

  10. Preposterous
    This move by the “staff” is absolutely preposterous! Is the city going to ask us taxpayers what WE think about this? Or is the “staff” some kind of hidden committee that inspires our “representatives?” We are not just encroached by this government, we are chocked. We have to pay for the air we breath! Has our government ever traveled to other cities to see how they do it without killing their citizens with overthetop taxes?

    1. The city did ask you what you

      The city did ask you what you think – the election was last year.  It was well covered.  The staff is acting on the general policy outlines of an elected mayor and council.

      I don’t think this proposal is a good idea myself,  In particular, whatever the impact of being “certified poor,” it’s just not a task I think city staff should be performing.

  11. Too much staff with too much

    Too much staff with too much free time on their hands to think up this kind of junk.

  12. Time to drain the swamp at city hall
    In order to rent YOUR coach house to a non-family member you must certify with the city to be poor. Certify with the city to be poor. Oh, that’s rich.

    It’s evident. We need to drain the swamp at city hall. A full cleaning is in order.

    Please, anyone with common sense and decency needs to step up and run for alderman. Vote out all the incumbents and then fire all the top ranking city staff members. Or, things will just get worse, if that’s even possible.

    This kind of thinking is prevalent in the Democratic party. Kick all the Democrats out of office, too.

    1. What is this obsession with the poor?
      I just don’t understand why city staff which feeds off our property taxes and expects pensions from our property taxes would want to depress property prices and decrease median household income in Evanston…

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