City Council tackles affordable housing at Tuesday’s meeting


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th). Rainy inquired about the possibility of home sharing in Evanston.

Julia Richardson, Reporter

City Council members focused heavily on affordable housing at Tuesday’s meeting, with aldermen voting to pass two housing-related ordinances and also placing on file two other project reports.

The council unanimously approved two housing ordinances, one of which proposed construction of an addition to the CJE SeniorLife Building, which would include 60 affordable units for adults 62 and older. The other ordinance will allocate $2 million for a senior housing project. 

Margaret Gergen, a member of the Age-Friendly Evanston Action Plan working group, presented the the Age-Friendly Evanston Market Assessment for Independent and Assisted Living Needs in Evanston. 

The report described a previously approved plan that focused on three parts: providing more affordable housing units for independent seniors, providing affordable assisted living units for seniors and expanding shared-housing options for seniors. 

Gergen said that the Age-Friendly Action Plan needs more implementation, and to do this, independent and assisted living would be combined into one project. Fifty units of affordable independent living, 50 units of affordable assisted living and 50 units of market-rate assisted living were part of the original plan, but the current plan includes a smaller number of unit additions  due to lack of funding and feasibility issues. 

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) expressed support for the plan.

“I am very supportive and I would love to help you push on our state elected officials,” she said. “Thank you so much for doing this and for pointing this out, and hopefully you guys will come back and present us some real peaceful options that we can move forward.”

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) brought up large-scale home sharing and inquired if there had been any research done in regards to brining that concept to Evanston, and Gergen said that she and her team had looked into it.

“There are actually some, I think you could call them, prototype models of that in Illinois,” Gergen said. “Those are areas we did not do a site visit for, but perhaps that will be on the agenda coming up. It seemed like a very affordable way of living.”

City Council voted to accept the assessment and place it on file.

However, a waiver of building permit fees, which Fleming proposed, for coach houses and accessory dwelling units was held for further discussion. If accepted, these fees would have been waived if the owner agreed to rent out the ADU at an affordable rate to income-eligible households.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd), said she understands why people want to waive the fee, but also explained her concerns. 

“These are all things that we’re recouping the cost of what it takes to inspect and make sure that things are constructed properly,” she said.

The council also accepted the Affordable Housing Work Plan, presented by Sarah Flax, the city’s housing and grants administrator. The plan included highlights including City Council approving a zoning ordinance at its Jan. 13 meeting. 

The ordinance proposed zoning changes to facilitate construction of ADUs/coach houses. Many housing projects are also underway, and revenues for affordable housing increased with the new year. 

“Those are steps,” Flax said. “Small, but nonetheless there.”

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