Proposals from Evanston city staff to license landlords will face a critique from an affordable housing group at a Housing Subcommittee meeting this evening.

A memo prepared by Joining Forces for Affordable Housing says that the licensing proposal — which would give the city authority to bar problem landlords from renting apartments — is a “huge problem” because it would displace tenants.

As a result, the memo notes, most municipalities the city has researched that have such power don’t actually use it.

It also argues that since existing fees and penalties imposed on problem landlords have not been effective “implementing a licensing program that relies just on fees will, therefore, probably not make a difference.”

A city staff memo reports the authorized number of housing inspection staff, managers and support staff in several sizable Illinois communities.

While the numbers vary dramatically among the communities, Evanston at 72 minutes per rental housing unit per year is slightly above the average for the seven communities of 67 minutes.

Evanston has had two vacancies on its inspectional staff in recent months which are not reflected in the numbers.

Joining Forces says the city needs to define the problems to be solved — are they “resolving issues with bad landlords, decreasing flipping of single-family homes, preventing student housing, increasing revenue” or identifying problem properties?

It then needs to examine research to see what solutions have come closest to addressing the problems and identify systems and staffing that need to be in place to address those problems before changing policy.

The Housing Subcommittee of the Planning and Development Committee is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. in Room 2402 at the Civic Center.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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