Evanston aldermen approved two vacation rental licenses Monday night, but indicated they may soon impose a moratorium on new short-term rental licenses over fears of how they might change the city’s rental housing market.

With Northwestern University’s new rule requiring sophomores to live on campus going into effect next fall, some aldermen had envisioned that rental units freed up from the student housing market might become affordable rentals for families.

But as they approved the vacation rental licenses Monday for small apartment buildings at 1914 Jackson Ave. and 1026 Garnett Place, aldermen saw the spectre of what they envisioned as more lucrative market for landlords developing instead — serving out-of-town visitors.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said the vacation rentals could reduce the amount of affordable housing in the city, and she suggested restricting such uses to properties that are owner-occupied.

Ann Rainey.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said Denver last year adopted restrictions like that, and suggested Evanston might also consider limiting the number of days per year a property could be rented out.

With the two licenses approved Monday, Evanston now has a total of five vacation rental properties with a total of 10 rental units.

Airbnb, the largest vacation rental listing website, currently shows 14 rental listings in Evanston. Evanston has roughly 15,000 rental housing units. So vacation rentals appear to represent about 0.1 percent of the market.

Denver has nearly 10 times the population of Evanston, and as in Evanston, close to half its households rent.

City officials there said that as of August there were just over 2,000 licensed vacation rental properties in the city and that online listing data indicated there were roughly another 1,000 unlicensed ones. Denver has roughly 150,000 rental housing units. So vacation rentals appear to represent about 2 percent of the market there.

Some reports suggest that even with the new restrictions, some Denverites have found fixing up an inlaw-apartment or other space in their homes for use as a vacation rental has been a good way to bring in extra income to help pay off their mortgages.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said she believes vacation rentals should be restricted to owner-occupied properties, and Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he didn’t disagree with Fiske’s comments.

Fiske added that she expects the neighborhood adjacent to campus to change a lot with the university’s new housing rules and she wants restrictions to prevent buildings from being rented out as party venues. “Neighbors are very concerned about that,” Fiske said.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Inquiring minds would like to know

    Why is NU requiring sophmores to live on campus if they can live cheaper off campus (I don’t know  that it is).  If an NU freshman or sophmore lives at home in Evanston, Skokie, Wlimette etc…are they required to live in a dorm?  Is a military veteran entering as a freshman/sophmore at NU on the GI Bill required to live on campus?  I’m just curious.

    1. Since Northwestern invested
      Since Northwestern invested money in building/renovating dorms, they want to be sure they are always at 100% occupancy. They control the market basically (and many other schools do this as well for the same reasons). Many universities cite trying to create a better sense of community as to the basis of the requirement (which I might partially buy….). So, yes, they require sophomores to live on campus even if it’s cheaper to live off campus. Those on financial aid, however, won’t see an impact as their EFC (estimated family contribution) remains the same so the total cost of attendance would be stagnant even if housing costs went up. If a freshman is from Evanston or some other nearby town, that does not exempt them from the on campus living requirement. I assume there are some super extenuating circumstances where a student could petition for a release (and Northwestern would evaluate on a case-by-case basis), but those would be the exceptions and not the rule.

  2. Sweet Home Colorado

    Hardly a week passes when Evanston does not look to the great state of Colorado for guidance on how to handle pressing civic issues.  We evoked Boulder in the Albion arguments. We turn to Denver for vacation rental debates. With respect to the Binny’s bashing, however, we see a huge missed opportunity. Colorado Springs, population 465,101, has over TEN options for bowling. By this metric we’d expect to see (at least!) ONE bowling option in Evanston, population 74,895. 

  3. vacation rentals

    What a gaggle of busybodies! As long as the propery does not become a nusiance via noise, drugs, fire violations or inadequately handled trash, why not leave the beleagured, overtaxed property owners in peace? It is THEIR property after all.

    1. Taking in renters—result of tax hikes?

      Given how much the city, the library board and the school districts jack up our taxes, many of us will need to take in short-term renters to be able to stay here.

      As long as trash, noise and crime do not result from my rental, hands off my property!  Restricting my ability to take in short-term renters may mean that I will need to move out of my home.  Way to be inclusive and consider how your reactionary decision-making may harm the middle class, City Council!

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