Members of Evanston Development Cooperative led several dozen community members on a tour of various accessory dwelling units (ADUs) the afternoon of July 31.
The tour began outside Noir d’Ébène Chocolat et Pâtisserie, 1309 Chicago Ave., and ended at Nichols Middle School, 800 Greenleaf St., which is close to several ADUs.
The ADU concept has been around for ages. ADUs have long been colloquially referred to as “coach houses” and are often used by homeowners as a means of lowering housing costs. Some owners might build an ADU and move into it themselves, renting out their main house. Others might add an ADU over a garage for a family member.
Evanston made zoning changes last September that eased the way for an increased number of ADUs. On July 28, the City Plan Commission put forward a recommendation for a six-month moratorium on approvals for non-owner occupied ADUs, but owner-occupied homes would not be affected. The moratorium is aimed at ensuring that absentee landlords could not exploit ADU rules as a means to offer overcrowded student-housing.
That question aside, Evanston “celebrates” ADU housing, said EDC President/Co-Founder Dick Co early in the July 28 tour.
Co explained that ADUs generally are less than 1,000 square-feet and are subject to few zoning limitations. Homeowners only need to get special approvals if they are in a historical district, the building exceeds 28 feet in height, or comes within three feet of a neighbor’s lot. “Impervious coverage” –the amount of property covered by a building – is also a key consideration. But homeowners generally keep within the boundaries they have long lived in, Co said.
He added, “When you build a unit and you don’t have to pay for land, it makes renting it out below market rate a more likely possibility.”
ADUs are often found off alleys, and usually must have a separate entrance off the main street. If a street address is followed by “1/2,” the address is likely to be an ADU.
Tour members saw, among others, one unit above a garage. The entire dwelling had been a former Standard Oil service station, according to its owner. Co reminded the tour frequently though, “Think ‘small apartment.’ Don’t think ‘fancy garage.’”
The tour concluded with an explanation of Evanston ADU regulations and a description of building and planning processes that EDC uses for its clients. The organization has co-published with the City a guide for people wishing to learn more about adding an ADU.