How many persons, unrelated to each other can “safely” live in a four-bedroom apartment? According to some city of Evanston residents and elected officials, the answer is three. For decades, Evanston has attempted to limit the housing choices of Northwestern University students and other non-traditional families by legislating the number of unrelated persons that can live together.
Advocates support this law under the guise of safety. They contend that it is unsafe for four unrelated persons to live in a four-bedroom apartment, but it is perfectly safe for four related people to live in a two-bedroom apartment. In reality, they seek to limit Northwestern University (NU) students from living in their neighborhood. They want to abate the nuisances they associate with college students such as noise and garbage.
However, the city already maintains a number of ordinances that address excessive noise and debris. The unrelated persons ordinance, dubbed the “brothel law” by the local media, only serves to increase housing costs for students and other demographics while hurting property values and sales and leasing.
Enforcement of the law has varied considerably but the city has now taken a more forceful posture. Just recently, city staff publicly released a list of 52 properties for the purpose of notifying students that these properties were red flagged and should not be rented the next school year. It was quickly determined that the “violations” were often based on nothing more than complaints or suspicion with no notice to the property owners and no investigation by the city. City staff was unable to explain how properties made the list. Several Evanston alderman cried foul over the contrived list and called for its rescission.
REALTORS® and property owners are taking the lead on calling for an end to the antiquated “brothel law.” Last week, REALTORS® brought in Professor Ellen Pader, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst, an expert on familial occupancy laws, for a special lecture on this subject. Her lecture garnered a significant amount of media coverage. You can watch Professor Pader’s full lecture here: www.wellcomemat.com/video/204FD569A1