Editor’s note: The Eighth Ward meeting began with ward specific information and later it combined with the Fifth Ward for a larger budget and zoning discussion. This story is about the Eighth Ward meeting and here is the joint meeting budget story with the two wards.
Local zoning rules, rather than addressing equity and equality, tend to focus on preserving character and addressing congestion, a community organizer for Evanston-based Connections for the Homeless said during an Oct. 27 virtual meeting for 8th Ward residents.
Connections’ ongoing study of the city’s zoning codes, with partner Cincinnati-based consulting firm ZoneCo, indicates a need for more attention to housing affordability, said Maxwell Seeley, a community organizer.
More than half of Evanston households are paying more than 30% of their incomes toward their housing costs, Seeley said, which suggests affordability is a major problem.
“We can’t fulfill our mission of ending homelessness if there is not enough affordable housing,” Seeley said. “Zoning makes affordable housing difficult.”
City Council Member Devon Reid, 8th Ward, noted that certain rules tend to adversely impact residents and stunt the development of affordable housing. He said that he is currently working with the council’s Family Subcommittee to change the city’s definition of “family,” which is now relatively limited. More than three unrelated adults are prohibited from sharing a dwelling, for example.
Parking requirements are similarly onerous, Reid said, noting that costs of a single stall, whether outdoors or in a garage, can extend into the tens of thousands of dollars over its lifetime, money that developers could theoretically funnel into additional units. City codes generally include substantially large numbers of parking stalls for new projects.
Reid was later asked about a reported commitment he’d made for a shelter for individuals experiencing homelessness in the 8th Ward. He answered that he had not made a commitment to a shelter but was open to exploring the possibility, given the controversies surrounding the Margarita Inn shelter in the 4th Ward.
“I do think the 8th Ward has a more welcoming community and can have a location that’s less disruptive,” Reid said.
He also noted that the city was continuing discussions about buying the fire-damaged property at Howard Street and Elmwood Avenue for mixed-income housing and business development.
“There is very strong potential that we will be able to get a deal done,” Reid said.