Evanston next week is scheduled advertise for consultants to develop a new comprehensive plan and zoning code that at least some advocates hope will make housing more affordable here by eliminating single family zoning restrictions.

Assuming the process moves forward on the current schedule — always a questionable assumption — Evanston might have its new plan and zoning code in place by August 2025.

Meanwhile a number of other communities around the country are a lot further along in making zoning changes to encourage more housing density in single-family neighborhoods.

Here are a few examples:


In Arlington, Virginia, an affluent county of 234,000 people just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., where the median-priced single family home costs $777,100, the county board voted unanimously last week, following years of debate, to allow two-to-six-unit multifamily structures in zoning districts that previously had allowed only single-family homes.

The so-called missing-middle housing would have size caps to keep the multi-unit structures no larger in height or footprint than the largest single family home that previously could have been built on a lot.

The county board capped the number of such projects at 58 per year for the first five years, and county officials told local news site ARLnow.com that it will be at least 18 months before the first such structures are built.


Across the country, in Oakland, California, a city of 434,000 where the value of the median single family home is $870,800, the Planning Commission is considering eliminating single-family-only zoning — instead allowing two to four units on each lot, depending on the lot’s size.

Neighboring Berkeley, California, where the 117,000 residents face a median single family home cost of nearly $1.4 million, city officials have received state approval for a plan to create more housing density in wealthier neighborhoods and create 9,000 new homes over the next eight years.


In the Pacific Northwest, Washington state lawmakers are considering overriding local zoning laws to increase the number of housing units allowed per lot in most neighborhoods.

The Seattle Times reports that suburban Kirkland, Washington, (population 92,000 and median home value $933,500) got out in front of the issue and changed its zoning rules in 2020 to permit multi-unit buildings on what had been single-family lots — with a few of the new structures now dotting local neighborhoods.

Earlier efforts here

Here in Evanston, where the median single-family home is valued at $444,300, affordable housing advocates had hoped that the Housing Subcommittee of the Planning and Development Committee, formed some 18 months ago and chaired by Ald. Clare Kelly (1st), might have advanced some proposals on the housing affordability issue.

But the committee has failed to make progress on that issue and hasn’t actually held a scheduled monthly meeting since last November.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Interesting. What often seems to come up regarding density is traffic and parking. A big issue is whether Evanston should be a “car first” city, or have more walkable regions within it. There are interesting progressive things happening elsewhere.

    Fayetteville AR has eliminated any requirement for parking at commercial buildings, and some believe that has been a key driver in revitalizing its downtown (https://www.sightline.org/2022/02/22/no-minimum-parking-requirements-no-problem-for-fayetteville-arkansas/).

    Emeryville, CA (Oakland’s neighbor) has really transformed itself for the better by broadly allowing high density residential development (https://www.nahb.org/-/media/NAHB/advocacy/docs/top-priorities/housing-affordability/case-study-emeryville-ca.pdf). That combined with good public transit to the BART has had an effect in their community worth considering.

  2. Here is what I’ve learned in my 40 years of life:

    Whatever California does, do the opposite.

    – Frank

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *