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Plan panel to discuss ‘family’ zoning

Evanston's Plan Commission this evening is scheduled to discuss possible revisions to the city's controversial limit on the number of unrelated people who can live in a home or apartment.

An aerial view of the area around Fireman's Park west of the Northwestern University campus that has been a focus of neighbor concerns about student housing. (Google Maps image)

Evanston’s Plan Commission this evening is scheduled to discuss possible revisions to the city’s controversial limit on the number of unrelated people who can live in a home or apartment.

The city currently prohibits more than three unrelated persons from living in a dwelling unit, even if the unit has more than three bedrooms.

The regulation has been seen by many homeowners living near the Northwestern University campus as a way to limit the number of students living in the area — and to reduce the financial appeal to property owners of converting more buildings to student rentals.

But the rule has proved challenging to effectively enforce and has not been aggressively pursued by the city for a number of years.

A city staff memo to the committee says, “The existing regulation is problematic, difficult to enforce, is not equitable, and is considered an impediment to fair housing.”

The memo suggests using occupancy standards from the building or property maintenance codes — which would be much less restrictive than the current city ordinance — and creating a special use scheme for some specific circumstances.

It suggests that occupancy of dwelling units should be determined based on the square footage and configuration of each unit rather than the familial relationships of the occupants and should apply consistently to both rental and owner-occupied dwelling units.

The Plan Commission, during its 7 p.m. meeting, is also scheduled to consider revisions to the city’s regulation of home occupations in light of the increase of residents working from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

And, during a 6 p.m. meeting, the Commission’s Zoning Committee is scheduled to consider a proposal to establish a definition for micro dwelling units and to regulate their construction and use within residential districts.

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