Aldermen vote to approve tax on vacation rentals, Airbnb properties


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) speaks at a city meeting. Aldermen voted Monday to approve a tax on vacation rental properties in Evanston.

Kristina Karisch, Web Editor

Aldermen at a Monday City Council meeting narrowly voted to approve a 7.5 percent tax on vacation rental units, thereby taxing them similarly to hotels and motels across Evanston.

The ordinance originally resulted in a 4-4 tie among council members — Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) was absent from the meeting — but Mayor Steve Hagerty voted in favor of the tax, breaking the tie and letting it pass.

Aldermen who voted against the tax said it is not fair to residents looking to use services like Airbnb because the tax will not affect commercial bed-and-breakfasts in Evanston.

“I know that one gentleman who has an Airbnb in my ward has it because he has a child in college,” said Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th). “He is trying to supplement his income to pay for that and also offset the recent tax increase we all felt. To tax him and not tax a commercial (bed-and-breakfast) is just not fair.”

At the meeting, aldermen also approved vacation rental licenses for two properties located at 1914 Jackson Ave. and 1026 Garnett Pl., which will allow the owners to rent them out using services like Airbnb.

Property owner Victor Melecio (Weinberg ’96) said he wanted to be able to rent out his space at short-term intervals because there are times in the year when people in Evanston are actively looking for temporary housing. Melecio noted that many Northwestern students spend their summers in Evanston — for pursuits like athletics or research — and need short-term housing.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) said although she voted in favor of both of the licenses, she is concerned about a potential increase of Airbnbs in the city. She said revenues from vacation rentals may be so high for property owners that they would want to make their space a permanent vacation rental.

“I’m concerned about what this does to our general housing stock and especially to our affordable housing stock,” Revelle said.

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