Sarah Flax.

City staff told a housing subcommittee Thursday night that it may take two years to implement new software to improve Evanston’s rental property inspection program.

And, Housing and Grants Manager Sarah Flax said in a memo to the committee, that’s assuming City Council approves a contract with the software vendor this summer.

The Housing Subcommittee of the council’s Planning and Development Committee has wrestled for months with how to address a variety of often conflicting proposals for improving rental housing conditions in the city.

A persistent theme has been that the city lacks effective tools to track complaints about properties and their owners, to implement a cost-effective program of proactive inspections or to inform potential tenants about the history of violations at a particular property or at other properties owned by the same landlord.

The city conducted just 109 rental property inspections during 2021, according to a map prepared by staff for the meeting.

That’s less than one percent of the latest Census Bureau estimate of 12,090 households living in rental units in the city.

The inspections, which are largely complaint-driven, tend to be concentrated in areas that both have a high number of rental units and many low-income residents.

In her memo, Flax said that it has typically taken other municipalities implementing similar software upgrades between one to three years to get the job done — primarily due to differences in data quality.

She also said that to start doing more proactive inspections of rental properties the city would need to add at least two inspectors and a part-time administrative staff person at an estimated annual cost of $395,000.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Sorry to hear about the lack of inspections. In our neighborhood of many student rentals that are not maintained to code, there is a need for more inspections. We were made to cut our 3 ft. tall bushes back that were protruding a couple of inches over our property line, while there are rentals without grass in their yards.

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