The City of Evanston’s rental apartment registration database lacks the most basic capability to test how faithfully the city’s landlords comply with the registration rules.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request from Evanston Now, city officials said they have no way to tally how many apartment units are registered in the database.

A spreadsheet produced in response to the FOIA request showed 2,527 invoices issued in 2015 to landlords demanding payment of the registration fee. But it provided no information on how many rental units were associated with each invoice.

Since the city charges for registrations on a sliding scale, with larger building charged less per unit than smaller ones, there’s also no way to easily determine from the roughly $75,000 raised annually in registration fees how many rental units that revenue represents.

The U.S. Census says that as of 2010 Evanston had about 14,800 rental housing units — nearly 45 percent of the city’s total housing stock.

Assistant Health Director Carl Caneva told aldermen earlier this year that he estimates 10 to 15 percent of properties eligible for registration under the ordinance are not registered, but he offered no basis for how he reached that conclusion.

Caneva hasn’t responded to phone or email inquiries from Evanston Now to discuss the issue.

The City Council Monday is again scheduled to discuss proposed revisions to the registration ordinance that would set up a two-tier licensing scheme — with higher fees and more frequent inspections for properties that fail to comply with city standards.

Update 4:45 p.m.: In a phone interview this afternoon, Caneva said that he now believes there are 19,909 rental units registered with the city, a number dramatically higher than what’s reported by the U.S. Census.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. We doan need no stinkin rental registration ordinance
    This rental apartment registration ordinance is a waste of time as we can see. Our local government has no idea how to manage such an unworkable ordinance.

    The city should scrap it altogether. How would the city ever know if an owner rents their condo or a homeowner rents their home? The city’s response is to hire more inspectors even though they have no way of knowing how many apartment units are registered in THEIR database!!

    Anyone remember the $2 billion Obamacare website that for months after its launch it didn’t work? Evanston has too much government. It’s time to cut back.

    “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help,” Ronald Reagan.

    Kudos to Bill Smith for shining the light on this issue.

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