Short-Term Condo Rentals—and a Volunteer Rehab in Highland Park

Renting out unsold condos for the short term is an idea that is simultaneously gaining and losing popularity. It’s on the upswing among owners of vacant condos who hope to defray their costs while waiting for an improved real-estate market. HomeAway, an online vacation home rental source, reports that in April, it had 120 listings in Chicago, up 53 percent from a year before. More than half of them are condos, according to Denise Frasier, HomeAway’s spokesperson.

Renting out unsold condos for the short term is an idea that is simultaneously gaining and losing popularity. It’s on the upswing among owners of vacant condos who hope to defray their costs while waiting for an improved real-estate market. HomeAway, an online vacation home rental source, reports that in April, it had 120 listings in Chicago, up 53 percent from a year before. More than half of them are condos, according to Denise Frasier, HomeAway’s spokesperson.

It’s also popular among renters who want to vacation or otherwise stay here for only a short while. HomeAway says inquires about renting are up 48 percent since last year, and Jamie Scalara of the Chicago-based Elite Chicago Rentals says that her company’s 60-plus rentals here are “almost completely booked for all of summer. There are a few vacancies on weekends in June, but we’re practically booked through summer.” Most of those are rentals extending from three nights (the minimum) to a week, Scalara says, and they are largely out-of-towners hoping “for a better deal than a hotel, [a place] where they can share a kitchen, pitch in together on a house and not have to book separate rooms.” Elite’s offerings range from $199 per night for a one-bedroom condo up to about $1,200 a night for a seven-bedroom house. There is also a “departure cleaning fee,” something you don’t pay at a hotel.

But short-term rentals have raised the hackles of some people, including long-term residents sharing their buildings with short-term visitors. On June 2nd, the Chicago City Council’s Joint Committee on Zoning Licensing will consider a nightly vacation rental ordinance, which is cosponsored by Aldermen Brendan Reilly (42nd) and Edward Burke (14th). If adopted, the ordinance would require owners who want to rent their condos to pay licensing and inspection fees, as well as taxes on their rental proceeds. There are also provisions for getting approval for short-term rentals from a condo building’s board.

Reilly and others have said that long-term residents fear that parts of their buildings will turn into party hotels. Their concerns are not unfounded. Last October, a DePaul University student was shot and killed at this Humboldt Park house after it had been rented out for a Halloween party.

AND: The Highland Park Community Land Trust is inviting volunteers to come out Saturday, May 22nd, to help start the interior demolition work on a vacant, foreclosed house in town. The organization plans to do an eco-friendly rehab of the house and then get it into the hands of a family. (The organization was part of this affordable and green housing project that I wrote about two years ago.) Rob Anthony, the organization’s executive director, says that the morning slots are full, but that volunteers are still needed in the afternoon. Volunteers need to register in advance and read and sign safety waivers; the organization is not publishing the address of the house so people don’t show up without having first completed the paperwork.

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