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City staff wants rent control for coach houses

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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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