Evanston’s Community Development staff got varying reactions this week when they suggested at a City Council meeting a set of steps the city might take to increase the supply of affordable housing.

Accessory dwelling units

The staff proposed changing zoning rules to let more existing coach houses be rented to non-family members and encourage the creation of new “granny flats” in single family neighborhoods.

A staff suggestion that property owners would have to fill the units from a city-maintained list of low-income residents drew fire from aldermen, but otherwise there appeared to be substantial support for such zoning changes.

Home sharing

The staff proposed that zoning rules that restrict dwelling unit occupancy to no more than three unrelated individuals be changed to encourage home-sharing — especially intergenerational options that might make it easier for older residents to avoid having to move to assisted living facilities.

Helen Gagel.

Helen Gagel, an activist on senior issues, spoke in favor of that concept during public comment at the Council meeting, and Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she liked it. But an effort to change the occupancy rule failed a few years ago.

Require more affordable units in market-rate developments

The staff suggested raising the fee that lets developers opt out of providing subsidized units on site.

The large disparity between the cost of providing a unit on site — typically estimated at $225,000 to $250,000 — and the buy-out fee of $100,000 per unit creates an economic incentive to opt out.

Adrian Willoughby, director of Reba Place Development Corp., spoke in favor of that change during public comment

But unless the city opted to reduce the number of subsidized units required in a project, a major increase in the fee could kill off new development and therefore affordable housing production.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, suggested the fee in lieu should vary based on whether the new construction project was eliminating existing affordable units.

Paths to home ownership

City staff proposed expanding first-time home buyer programs and using land trusts to maintain the affordability of those properties.

But a number of aldermen voiced opposition to the land trust model — saying it denies owners the opportunity to build equity in their homes.

Preserving affordable housing

City staff also proposed creating programs to help fund repairs of owner-occupied small rental buildings. (More on that concept in a report from the Preservation Compact.)

Some aldermen indicated support for that concept — and for expanding it beyond owner-occupied properties to help other landlords who provide decent housing at affordable rents.

The City Council is scheduled to again tackle the affordable housing issue at a special meeting on Monday, Oct. 30.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Please integrate the
    Please integrate the affordable housing units throughout the city so the poor will have choices with were they want to live.

    Remember we’re not suppose to be segregating people we’re suppose to be integrating people as the fair housing laws states. Please vote no to giving HOW 550k for 1305 Pitner/2215 Dempster because this building will only further the lines of segregation in this city, be the voice of CHANGE!

    Thank you

    1. Evanston doesn’t need more

      Evanston doesn’t need more affordable housing with Skokie and Rogers Park right next to us.

    2. Define your term

      What do you mean by affordable housing ? People seem to leave it undefined and hope voters will just  vote for anything with that name.

      Teachers, police, firemen and such that have to/should live in Evanston ?  Most of these already make enough to live in Evanston.

      Those right out of college or training programs that need help for X years [3,5?] to get on their feet and can afford un-subsidized housing ?

      Those who want to live in a better area [or move to Evanston] who don’t have jobs or prospects that will probably allow them to move to non-subsizied housing in five or even ten years ?

      Do we have records of how many who live in affordable housing are able to move to  non-subsized housing in five years ? ten years ? Or even have to vacate because they can’t even make affordable housing rent or cost of living in Evanston. If a building [new or existing] can’t find tenants who can even afford the subsidized rents, are those subsidized units ever turned back to regular rental units ? Is there a ‘sunset’ law for subsidized units—e.g. after 10 years revert to regular priced units ?

      If new or existing rental unit are made, someone pays. Most likely higher rents in non-subsidized units or building not being built—thus making them less affordable.

      1. Affordable Housing

        So many NIMBY’s ——–

        Evanston doesn’t need more affordable housing?   We have Skokie and Rogers Park?

        Comments like that are shameful !    Borders on bigotry !   Kenilworth & Wilmette don’t need affordable  housing —- they have Evanston neighborhoods —- sheesh.  

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