A section of Evanston's zoning map.

Evanston’s Equity and Empowerment Commission is scheduled Thursday evening to discuss a consultant’s report that flags numerous city zoning code provisions as inequitable, economically inefficient and exclusionary.

The report, from Cincinnati, Ohio, based ZoneCo, was commissioned by Joining Forces for Affordable Housing, the advocacy program of Connections for the Homeless.

The report criticizes the use of the term “family” throughout the city’s zoning code, saying “households should have an inherent right to form” regardless of whether the members are related.

It suggests using the building code instead to regulate overcrowding, health and safety standards and says “mandating familial structures is an inherently flawed and discriminatory way to regulate these things.”

Activists have sought for decades to repeal Evanston’s ban on more than three unrelated individuals living together, so far without success.

The ZoneCo report also says limitations on development within the U1, T1 and T2 zones on and near the Northwestern University campus severely restrict residential density and push student housing demand into surrounding residentially-zoned districts.

In residential districts, the report says, a variety of provisions — including lot coverage maximums, floor area ratios, height limits, minimum lot size requirements and the limited range of housing types permitted — have “an inherently exclusionary or segregationist effect on housing” by mandating land utilization that is economically inefficient.

The report also says the city’s limits on planned developments in residential districts are overly restrictive.

And it criticizes some policy goals included in the code.

For example, it says “the goal of lessening congestion can be used selectively and in discriminatory ways to prevent the construction of smaller, more concentrated [housing] units that tend to be more affordable.”

Cities, the report says, “inherently have congestion due to a more concentrated population than rural areas.”

And it says the goal of maintaining “character” of a neighborhood “could be used to reinforce or enforce exclusionary dynamics in the built environment if they already exist in a given zoning district.”

The commission is also scheduled to hear a presentation from Chicago Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) about several Chicago ordinances designed to slow gentrification.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Say what you will about this committee, but if it results in the end of the stupid three-unrelated rule, (which does seem discriminatory) then it’s a win.

  2. Zoning is by design exclusionary. So this should not be shocking to anyone. Evanstons code is antiquated but zoning generally has many unintentional and adverse consequences and has largely led to less efficient land use patterns and poor built outcomes compared to the environments created which predate zoning. Especially egregious in evanston are it’s minimum lot size requirements and restrictions on broad types of housing typologies as well as Minimum parking requirements which induce otherwise non existent demand, increase rents, and limit density.

    Will be interesting to see the report but imagine it’s recommendations, like so much good proposed for this community, will go nowhere.

  3. When did this ordinance come into effect? Never knew a damn thing about it when I lived with three other guys in an apartment in the late 80s. Neither did tons of other people we knew. I wonder how widely and how well it’s enforced. If landlords sign off on four names on a lease or don’t pay attention to that fourth person coming in and out, how would anyone know? Agree with the other commenter (so far) that the intent seems discriminatory.

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