Housing and Homelessness Commission to introduce alternative affordable housing options


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) speaks at a city meeting. The Housing and Homelessness Commission will ask City Council to legitimize detached garage rental units.

Jane Recker, Assistant Monthly Editor

Members of the Evanston Housing and Homelessness Commission will introduce a plan to legalize coach house rentals as a means to create alternative affordable housing options.

Evanston housing policy and planning analyst Savannah Clement said these housing options most often take the form of detached garages that homeowners renovate into small apartments and rent out.

Clement said these unique rental options would not only increase the amount of affordable housing units available in Evanston, but also introduce inclusionary housing to non-traditional zones, including those usually reserved for single-family homes.

If passed by City Council, the commission would then work to incentivize homeowners to rent out their units as affordable housing options, Clement said.

The commission has been planning for the possibility of an overarching affordable housing plan to present to council, Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said. While the commission has presented many individual ideas to the city about improving housing options, there hasn’t been a concrete, comprehensive housing plan since 2009, she said.

“If you really want to make a dent in the affordable housing problem, you need to have some measurable goals,” Revelle said. “To me, that means we need a plan that says, ‘here are these five goals and the strategies we’re going to pursue to achieve those five goals.’”

While Revelle anticipates that council will officially ask the commission to create a plan in the near future, she said further action has been impeded by lack of data from the Inclusionary Housing Ordinance subcommittee.

Revelle said she would speak with Mayor Steve Hagerty to see if she should motion to create a plan at the special council meeting later this month. Even with the absence of an official proposal, she suggested the commission start working on an outline for the plan.

“There’s no reason for us not to start talking about what we’d like the plan to include, what research we need to do,” Revelle said. “It’s time for us to come up with a next series of strategies, but also a framework where all these strategies will fit together and it’ll feel like we’re moving towards some goals.”

Ninth Ward resident Doug Sharp expressed concern about the efficacy of City Council in moving forward with an affordable housing plan. He noted that the last meeting council had on the subject was in February.

Sharp asked that, with budget season looming ever closer, the commision advocate more strongly for affordable housing in Evanston.

“I’m asking for whatever you can do to light a fire under the rest of the council … because this seems to be languishing,” he said.

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