City Council on July 23 approved licenses for vacation rentals at 2001 Orrington Ave. and 615 Central St. At the July 9 City Council meeting, aldermen held up approving licensing for the Orrington Avenue property until the owners could meet with neighbors to resolve concerns.

In response to a question, Community Development Director Johanna Leonard said the City does not know how many people are renting rooms as Airbnbs or vacation rentals by owner. She said looking at the Airbnb website gives some ideas of how many vacancies are available here, even if the City has not licensed them.

Because of the popularity of short-term rentals of otherwise unoccupied rooms in private houses, the City may rework portions of its licensing policy. Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, said, “I would recommend that we draft some amendments to reflect that we require some form of occupancy.”

“I agree,” said Third Ward Alderman Melissa Wynne.

Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said, “I would like to add that the [operator] live in Evanston. The feedback I’ve heard is about absentee landlords. If we require [operators] to be Evanston residents, they are less likely to be negligent property owners.”

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said, “A person who lives here and is registered to vote here is a person we want to be part of our vacation rentals.”

Ms. Leonard said, “We want to be sure we’re preserving the relationship of the owner to Evanston.”

Ald. Revelle said she would also like to have aldermen “talk about the number of nights” a property owner could rent rooms.

Ald. Rainey said, “I think the more difficult we make this, the more people will try to fly under the radar.”

Draft amendments to the Vacation Rental by Owner ordinance will come before Council likely in September.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...