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Shifting dynamics in the student housing world, involving changes in University policy requiring more and more students to live on campus, filtered down into the world of vacation rentals at the Nov. 27 City Council meeting, as two applicants sought permission to rent units to either long-term tenants or short-term vacation rental tenants.
In past years the properties likely would have rented units to students only. “We have two different requests for vacation rental licenses and in both cases these are multi-family properties that are not owner-occupied,” said Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward. “Should we allow vacation rental that are not owner occupied, and, if so, should we limit the number of days per year” they are open for short term rental? she asked.
The City passed an ordinance requiring all property owners who wish to offer rooms or unit on a short-term basis to apply for a “vacation rental” license. Licenses are good for one year and must be renewed annually, so if a vacation rental causes a problem for the neighborhood or the City, the renewal could be denied by the City.
The measure was passed, in part, in response to a controversial property near Ryan Field that rented to football fans on Northwestern football weekends. Both applicants referenced on-campus events, like football games, as one of the reasons they sought vacation rental licenses.
“Denver has legislated against allowing vacation rental in places where the owner does not reside,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. She referred the matter to the City’s Rules Committee for further study, but the Planning and Development Committee voted to consider these two applications before any changes to the licensing requirements, if any, were made.
Ald. Rainey also proposed a moratorium on any additional licenses to non-owner occupied “investment properties until we can figure out what to do about it.” The moratorium was also referred to the Rules Committee for consideration.
“A moratorium might be appropriate [but] I don’t think we should deny these,” said Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward.
“It is important to tell the applicants the license is good for one year,” said Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward. The renewal might be denied the next year because of changes to City policy, she said.
The applicants for the two properties—1914 Jackson Ave. and 1026 Garnett Pl. – both said they wanted flexibility to enter into either long-term or short-term vacation rentals. “What we’re seeking is to have the option to respond to market conditions,” said Robert Taylor, a California resident who owns the Garnett property.
He said in past years he rented his three-flat to students, but he had trouble during summer months. The idea, as described, would be to use summer months as vacation rental for parents bringing prospective students to Northwestern for campus visits.
Mr. Taylor was not willing to be tied down, though. “No, I am not making my request contingent upon” renting to students during the school year under nine-month leases and vacation rentals during the summer months. He said such a requirement would “not be fair or reasonable.”
At the Planning and Development Committee meeting, held just before the City Council meeting, Ald. Fiske voted “No,” but the measures both passed on the consent agenda at full Council. It is clear Northwestern’s on-campus housing policy is already impacting the Evanston rental market – vacation rental applications are just one aspect of the impact. More changes are coming.
“One other caution,” said Ald. Fiske. “As students – sophomores —move onto campus, the neighborhood is going to change.” She said neighbors were concerned that former off-campus student houses would be “rented out as party houses,” and said the City “needs to talk about it.”