Evanston takes steps to confront 30-day rentals
Updated: April 8, 2013 6:36AM
EVANSTON — City planners are studying options to ban housing units rented for less than 30 days or licensing property owners who rent them.
Homeowners, especially on the 2500 block of Ashland Avenue, believe the transient nature of such renters creates an unsafe neighborhood zoned for single-family homes with children.
In opposition, property owners who rent the units — known as vacation rentals — have said the ban would turn visitors and economic opportunities away from Evanston.
The Planning and Development Committee met with residents Saturday in a workshop setting to discuss adopting an ordinance to prohibit the leasing for fewer than 30 days.
Resident Mark Rosati said when people buy homes in Evanston, they want the safety associated with residential neighborhoods.
“If a boarding house pops up, you don’t know if a person standing by a garage is a thief or not,” he said, adding residential areas were not zoned for “24-hour commercial enterprises,” in the case of short-term rentals.
City planners also are considering exemptions that would allow 30-day leasing, such as owner occupied apartments, rent to buy units, subletting to professors on sabbatical at Northwestern University and housing swaps with visitors to foreign countries.
Judy Berg, school communications coordinator for St. Athanasius Parish in Evanston, said 337 children were enrolled at the school on Lincoln Street.
“With activities like (short-term renting) going on across the street from us, it’s hard to ensure safety to parents,” she said.
Jeffrey Smith, of the 2700 block of Harrison St., said allowing the leased units financially helped property owners and renters.
“The need for these rentals has become more popular since the economic collapse of 2007-08. They help with mortgage payments, and I object to calling house guests as transients,” Smith said. “It’s a stereotyped image and a little bit offensive.”
Maureen O’Donnell also lives on the 2500 block of Ashland Avenue.
She said some families were thinking about moving because they “frustrated with the situation.”
“How would you feel if neighbors were renting to strangers and you had children? Evanston would turn into Pottersville,” O’Donnell said, referring to the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” in which slum lord properties overrun a once peaceful town.
Other residents said vacation and short-term rentals should be allowed if property owners vetted renters.
Also, they believe Evanston, Northwestern University and Chicago were destinations for visitors who wanted less expensive, temporary housing instead of staying in hotels.
“Maybe a registration instead of a ban. This is economic activity. We want to be welcoming because people are bringing money,” Smith said.
City Attorney Grant Farrar said banning or licensing the rentals were the most probable legislative outcomes.
After public comment, Alderwoman Melissa Wynne, 3rd, said the existing ordinance that banned the units in single-family neighborhoods should be enforced.