Schapiro endorses proposed ‘brothel law’ changes, calls for more reforms

Marshall Cohen, Print Managing Editor

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University President Morton Schapiro said Tuesday that proposed reforms to Evanston’s over-occupancy law are a “good first step” but do not go far enough to solve the problem.

“You don’t want to have laws that don’t make sense and you don’t want to have laws that people don’t obey,” Schapiro told The Daily. “If you have a chance to solve half the problem, solve it, then go to the next half.”

Schapiro endorsed the proposal, which was drafted by Ald. Don Wilson (4th) and briefly discussed at Monday’s city council meeting. The Daily first reported last week that Evanston officials were looking into reforming the law, parts of which have been on the books since the 1960s.

Current law prohibits more than three unrelated people from living in the same housing unit. Wilson’s proposal would increase that limit to six for multiple-family dwellings like apartments, granted there are as many bedrooms as occupants in the unit.

The proposal would also increase the unrelated occupancy limit for all other types of units, including houses, from three to four residents. However, many Northwestern students live in off-campus houses with six or more roommates.

Schapiro and student leaders say aldermen still need to address that part of the problem.

“They should probably change that next,” Schapiro said. “It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just make it better.”

Schapiro joins his Evanston counterpart in embracing the changes. Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl, described by Schapiro as “breathtakingly brilliant,” signaled her support for the proposal earlier this month at an on-campus event.

The proposed changes, hailed by students as a step in the right direction, come during a period of detente between the city and the University after years of hostility.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said Monday night that Wilson’s proposed changes to the “brothel law” will come up before the council on Jan. 14, 2013.