Aldermen place ‘brothel law’ discussion on committee’s agenda


Colin Boyle/Daily Senior Staffer

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) speaks at a council meeting Monday. Fleming voted in favor of placing a discussion about the three-unrelated rule on the Planning and Development Committee’s agenda.

Samantha Handler, Assistant City Editor

Aldermen unanimously voted Monday to place the discussion about the city’s three-unrelated rule — often referred to as the city’s “brothel law” — on the agenda of the next Planning and Development Committee meeting.

The ordinance states that more than three unrelated people cannot live together in a single unit unless the landlord has obtained a valid lodging license.

Some have argued that the rule makes housing too expensive and puts students at a disadvantage because a significant number of Northwestern undergraduates live off campus, frequently in houses and apartments with more than three unrelated people.

“It’s been on the docket, it’s been discussed for decades so I’m really encouraged that it’s finally going to get the discussion that it evidently deserved,” Michael Deneroff, Associated Student Government’s vice president for community relations, told The Daily. “Rents are so high in Evanston, and it’s frankly unaffordable in many houses, split-houses and apartments to just split the rent between three people.”

Deneroff added that rents are becoming especially unaffordable as NU increases the number of low-income students it admits.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said he wants to repeal the ordinance, particularly after noticing that students have been voicing concerns about the issue since 1975.

“I felt pretty strongly about it for a while,” Wilson said, “but just the idea that this has lingered for over a quarter of a century, going on half a century — I just think it’s time to move the conversation forward.”

Wilson said he motioned for the ordinance to be up for discussion at the May 14 Planning and Development Committee meeting because not all aldermen want to repeal the ordinance. The committee meeting provides an opportunity for alternative proposals to be brought to the table.

Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) said she wants to wait until next year to have a more informed discussion about the ordinance, as by then, the city may have data on the impact of NU requiring sophomores to live on campus. She added that the result of the two-year on-campus housing requirement may mean that houses previously occupied by students turn back into affordable housing units for permanent residents.

“No one is trying to keep students from having good, clean, safe affordable housing,” Fiske said. “It’s just, how do we do that and protect the residential neighborhoods and make permanent residents feel comfortable? It’s a balancing (act).”

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) said while she understands Fiske’s desire to see how housing needs and trends change in the 1st Ward, the council has frequently heard concerns about the ordinance during public comment.

Fleming said residents in the 9th Ward have been waiting for the council to move forward with the ordinance. She added that she is not sure why holding off for another year would make a significant difference in the conversation.

“There are people who have space they’d like to rent out or have a roommate and such who are trying to abide by the three-unrelated,” Fleming said. “I’m concerned if we wait for a year, then we potentially limit people’s ability to stay in Evanston or have affordable housing, even in the wards that are outside of Northwestern.”

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