In a memo included in the Monday, Feb. 27 city council meeting packet, Evanston staff is recommending the adoption of a new Shared Housing Provider License to replace the old Lodging Establishment License currently in the city code.

Council is expected to vote on the proposed ordinance during its 6:30 p.m. Monday meeting in the Civic Center chambers.

The new licensing system for shared housing would apply to transitional treatment facilities, shelters for victims of abuse, congregate housing, rooming houses, sheltered care homes, transitional shelters, apartment hotels, hotels, dormitories and boarding houses, according to the memo.

Margarita Inn
The proposed Shared Housing Provider Ordinance would cover the Margarita Inn shelter, which is also currently seeking a special use permit from the city. Credit: Adina Keeling

Interim Community Development Director Sarah Flax wrote in the council meeting packet that the proposed amendments to the licensing procedure include:

  • “A new definition was added to create consistency with City Code, Title 6, ‘Zoning.’
  • “A requirement to comply with the City’s Clean Air Act.
  • “A statement indicating how many people will occupy the space to ensure compliance with zoning & property standards codes.
  • “A requirement to annually provide a floor plan with room size measurements to ensure occupancy is consistent with existing property standard requirements.
  • “Annual license renewal and inspections.
  • “An operational agreement requirement.
  • “A process for the City Manager or designee to deny or revoke a license to operate based on life safety violations or persistent issues that negatively impact the health and well-being of residents, staff, and the community at large.
  • “Establishes a length of time to cure violations.
  • “Establishes a license fee of $500 per year.
  • “Establishes penalties for non-compliance up to a maximum of $750 per offense as well as revocation of the license.”

Flax wrote: “These changes will create stronger opportunities for routine inspections, engagement, education, and enforcement and provide the City an overall insight into facilities required to obtain a license to assure the public health, safety, and welfare of Evanston community members.”

Some experts, and First Ward Council Member Clare Kelly, have expressed skepticism about the proposal.

Longtime fair housing lawyer and former Evanston resident Daniel Lauber wrote a guest essay criticizing the shared housing law that was recently published in the RoundTable.

According to Lauber, “the proposed Evanston ordinance is missing such key elements that belong in nearly every licensing ordinance for housing providers:

  • Provide clear and thorough definitions of the use(s) the ordinance covers (but such ordinances should cover only very similar uses, not the plethora of very different uses proposed in Evanston.)
  • Specify minimal staffing requirements including qualifications and training.
  • Spell out in detail what the license application includes.
  • Specify standards for issuing a license.
  • Specify standards and procedures for suspending and terminating the license.
  • Specifiy operating standards.
  • Specify how to report violations.
  • List exactly what actions violate the ordinance and the penalties for violations.”

Lauber went on to emphasize that one of the main dangers he sees in the current proposal is how broad the definition of shared housing would be in Evanston if the council adopts the new licensing law.

“I cannot fathom how any city can classify, for example, dormitories, hotels, transitional treatment facilities and homeless shelters under the same license,” he wrote. “These are very different uses and licensing of their providers needs to be narrowly tailored to each type of use.”

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Duncan Agnew

Duncan Agnew covers Evanston public schools, affordable housing, City Hall and more for the RoundTable. He also writes long-form investigations, features and the morning email newsletter three times a...

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  1. I hope the city council postpones its approval of the new Shared Housing Provider License until the council and staff can address Daniel Lauber’s recommendations. Despite Evanston’s reputation as a “woke” community, it appears the parties involved in drafting and reviewing this ordinance were “asleep at the wheel.”

  2. Question: how *exactly* was this new Shared Housing Provider License crafted – and *who* crafted it…???

    Mr. Lauber appears to “know his stuff” – in contrast, why does the City Council seem so “inept”…???

    Gregory Morrow – Evanston 4th Ward resident