Aldermen gave final approval this week to a package of zoning changes designed to encourage the construction of detached accessory dwelling units, more commonly known as coach houses, in Evanston.

The changes:

  • Permit construction of a coach house on any residentially-zoned lot, rather than just behind single-family homes.
  • Waive the requirement that an additional parking space be provided for a coach house if the property is within 1,500 feet of a bus stop or train station or if it meets city-specified affordablity requirements.
  • Ease height limits for coach houses outside historic districts based on side yard setbacks provided, but set a maximum height limit of 28 feet.

Robbie Markus, vice-president of the Evanston Development Cooperative, said the changes would make it possible for about 820 owners of two-flat and townhome properties in the city to legally build accessory dwelling units.

The ordinance “helps expand sensible housing,” Markus said. “Given that a majority of affected properties are in west and southwest Evanston, this policy takes a step towards racial equity by providing equal opportunity for all residents to build a home in their backyard.”

The city still does not permit accessory dwelling units attached to single-family homes.

Combined with garage parking requirements and generally modest lot sizes, that means that the vast majority of ADUs newly allowed in Evanston would have to be constructed above garages.

That will limit the potential of ADUs as a solution for older residents who need housing that doesn’t require them to climb stairs.

Aldermen approved the changes on a 7-0 vote, with Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, abstaining because she’s a member of the Evanston Development Cooperative, which is seeking to build coach houses here.

On another affordable housing issue, the aldermen Monday approved for introduction plans for a 60-unit subsidized senior housing development at 999 Howard St. More action on that proposal is scheduled for the Council’s Tuesday, Jan. 21, meeting.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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