Joining Forces has reviewed the portions of the Evanston City Code related to housing in light of affordability and equity. We believe that both Evanston and the surrounding communities should expand this effort and overhaul their municipal codes to accomplish the following:
- Eliminate elements in the Code that make it more difficult and more expensive to create and sustain affordable housing
- Eliminate elements in the Code that perpetuate segregation, lack of housing choice, and economic, health, and political inequity based on race
Recommendations for Housing-Related Code Changes
Our recommendations will evolve as the City of Evanston's and the region’s conversations and plans on equity, reparations, and climate change continue.
Re-define the purpose of the City Code to include establishing and sustaining equity and livability in the City for all residents. Currently, only Title 6 of the City Code, Zoning, includes a definition of purpose, which does not in any way support the goals of sustained equity and housing affordability. At the minimum, the zoning purpose needs to be revised to reflect these goals. At the maximum, each section of the City Code will define how the code in that section will support these goals.
Structure the Zoning and Building Code to support the goals of the City’s Affordable Housing Plan. All of the City Code related to housing should be reviewed to ensure that it is in line with the new Affordable Housing Plan, once completed. The Affordable Housing Fund ordinance, and any parts of the code related to municipal spending on housing must be reviewed and revised to assure proper use and stewardship of the funds to implement the Affordable Housing Plan.
Eliminate single-family-only and single-use-only zoning to allow for more flexibility, which in turn can allow for more affordability and less segregation. Currently, much of the City’s land is zoned for single-family-only dwellings, and usage in many of the zones is limited to one purpose. The City should change the zoning to allow buildings up to at least 4 units in every residential zone, and mixed use development should be widespread to allow people to engage in new work-at-home trends, business development, and flexibility in land use.
Scrub the City Code of ordinances that dictate how people can live and with whom. This includes:
- Eliminating the ordinance that prohibits more than 3 unrelated adults from living in one unit, even when there is sufficient space
- Simplifying, consolidating, and providing more flexibility in the ordinances related to home-sharing, group homes, rooming houses, and lodging establishments so that new ways of housing people can be implemented.
Reduce restrictions that limit the ability to use land and buildings in creative and impactful ways to create more affordability. The City Code should allow land owners to use their properties to create equitable and affordable housing as follows:
- Special uses and standards should allow flexibility related to affordable housing, and affordability for low-income residents should become one standard to be considered in evaluating special uses.
- Parking restrictions should not be allowed to prevent creation of new affordable units.
- Restrictions on the number of buildings allowed on a property should be lifted to allow greater density which includes more affordability.
- Lot sizes and yard requirements should be modified to allow for greater density which includes more affordability.
- Work should continue on allowing the creation and use of attached and unattached ADUs for purposes of affordability.
- Additional flexibility should be allowed to take advantage of the affordability created through untraditional housing formats such as SROs, shelters, transitional housing, tiny homes, factory-built homes, and modular homes.
Developers should be required to respond to Evanston’s goal to create affordable housing with proposals that include substantial and meaningful affordability. The Inclusionary Housing Ordinance should be revised to require:
- More units for lower income people than it currently accommodates
- Higher fees in lieu when developers decline to put all required affordable units on-site
- Longer duration of affordability
The City Code must provide incentives and allowances that make developments with built-in affordability feasible. These include:
- Wavers of fees for affordability
- Accelerated processing of permits for affordability
- Significant increases in density bonuses for on-site affordable units
Changes to the building code should be evaluated to allow for less expensive standards for construction. For example, the City of Chicago has researched and is piloting alternatives such as the following. Evanston should do the same:
- Use of PVC for certain plumbing uses instead of copper pipe
- Use of Romex for certain electrical installations instead of conduitmade the following changes