An Evanston City Council subcommittee will get a big staff report Wednesday night exploring how other communities attempt to regulate the condition of rental housing units.

When the subcommittee last met in November, the focus was on whether the city should switch from its current rental registration permit program to one that would be called rental licensing — on the premise that licensing would give the city a bigger hammer to use to force landlords to comply with the rules.

The staff report to be presented Wednesday surveyed seven cities Illinois cities — all of which say they have rental licensing. The staff also surveyed five out-of-state Big Ten college towns. Four of those said they they issue rental permits and only one issues rental licenses.

The data collected provided no indication of which programs were most effective in reducing the occurrence or severity of housing code violations.

To varying degrees, all the programs appear to be constrained by limited staffing, uncertainty about how to best allocate those limited resources and a lack of clear data about the scope of the problem they were assigned to address and how to measure progress.

One of the best-staffed programs, based on the survey respondent’s report, appears to be in Iowa City, Iowa, where there are 10 inspectors to inspect an estimated 20,000 rental units.

Earlier this month, Angel Schnur, Evanston’s property maintenance supervisor, told City Council members that Evanston is authorized to have five inspectors, but currently only has three. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates Evanston has 12,376 occupied rental units.

That suggests that if Evanston’s department were fully staffed, each inspector on average would be responsible for 2,475 rental units while in Iowa City each inspector only is responsible for 2,000 rental units.

The staff report also references a guide to Drafting Rental Regulation Ordinances from the Center for Community Progress and a report from the Pew Trusts on Rental Code Enforcement and Philadelphia.

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

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. All of this is a bit baffling. The City has been billing me a “Rental License” fee for years… Add to the fact that under the current staffing situation and leadership, when a property owner needs to communicate with the City’s Property Standards/Maintenance department, their record of adequately responding (to me) is not satisfactory.

    Respectfully submitted, Brian G. Becharas

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