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Aldermen to review landlord assistance program at City Council

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City manager Wally Bobkiewicz at a meeting. Bobkiewicz said alderman will discuss affordable housing at Monday’s City Council meeting.

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz at a meeting. Bobkiewicz said alderman will discuss affordable housing at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz at a meeting. Bobkiewicz said alderman will discuss affordable housing at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Ryan Wangman, City Editor

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A pilot program to provide financial assistance for landlords to repair and improve low-income rental units will headline the affordable housing discussion at a special City Council meeting on Monday.

The program, which would be open to landlords committed to rent to households earning 60 percent of the average median income, would be funded with $200,000 of the currently uncommitted $800,000 in the city’s affordable housing fund, according to city documents. City manager Wally Bobkiewicz said he thinks the program will be the main action coming out of Monday’s meeting.

Council members want to move forward in addressing affordable housing, but Bobkiewicz said there are many different ways to attempt to solve the issue.

“There are, like (on) many issues, those in the community that are very tuned into this,” Bobkiewicz said. “For those individuals, hopefully they recognize that the Council really has been grappling with (affordable housing) in a way over the last few months (unlike any) other issue facing the city.”

Also up for action is a potential zoning change that would allow the rental of existing accessory dwelling units — secondary houses or apartments built on the same lots as bigger, primary homes — to people who are not related to the families living in primary dwelling units. Currently, accessory dwelling units can only be rented by family members and caregivers.

Bobkiewicz said council members want to discuss how this zoning change would look.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said at an October city meeting that rules regulating the renting and capacity of accessory dwelling units prevent the development of a “safe space” by assuming issues will arise if the restrictions aren’t followed.

“These are regulations that assume that just because you are in this category, there’s a problem,” Wilson said. “But I think the actual problems themselves already have ordinances. We have an ordinance about being too loud, we have an ordinance about keeping the property up.”

Monday’s meeting agenda also includes an affordable housing work plan, which Bobkiewicz said comes from council’s previous discussions about affordable housing and serves as a “guiding document” for all the city’s current related projects. Some of those topics are on the agenda for Monday, he said, but not all of them.

The city’s extended look at affordable housing comes after recently approved developments in Evanston have led local community leaders to call for more affordable units. The Albion Residential development, approved in November, is one of three covered developments approved by City Council since the inclusionary housing ordinance went into effect in January 2016.

“We have to be honest with each other and we have to be honest as a community,” Wilson said in October. “If the affordable housing is a priority, if diversity is a priority and if breaking through some of these segregation barriers are a priority, we have to start doing things differently.”

Email: ryanw@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @ryanwangman

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