Jacksonville City Council Considering Short-Term Rental Cap

By Benjamin Cox on February 19, 2024 at 9:10am

Photo courtesy of Jacksonvilleil.org

The Jacksonville City Council is considering the placement of a cap on the number of short-term rentals in residential areas.

The city has issued 7 short-term rental licenses, which include AirBnBs, VRBOs, and bed & breakfasts. Miranda Elliott, who is an assistant in the city clerk’s office and in charge of collecting the monthly hotel-motel tax for the city, brought forth the idea to the City Council last Monday night.

Elliott says with the current 7 short-term rentals already in operation and another 3 potentially seeking licenses in the coming months, the short-term rental properties are making up a significant amount of the city’s available housing stock: “I went online to Zillow and Realtor as well as some other websites to see an average of how many actual single-family homes were for sale currently. It was between 18-20. Then, I went to the Jacksonville Area Landlord’s Association’s website to go through there to pick out their available rental properties. It was about 13. There were a few properties on there that were more business-type rentals. It brought the total to about 33. With the potential of 10 licenses, it brought me to 30% of our housing market right now in the city.”

Elliott says there is some concern there could be too many single-family properties wanting to become short-term rentals, affecting the number of houses for sale: “There is a lack of rental houses. Rental properties are even less than permanent housing. With the city wanting to attract more people to move here, people to go to college here, live her permanently, and then also, the road work coming through and some of the other building operations we have going on in the Jacksonville area, there will be some people wanting to stay in at least a long-term rental and it’s kind of lacking, at the moment. It’s everywhere. With our size of town, I think getting out ahead of this issue is a smart idea.”

Elliott believes that a cap of 12 short-term rental licenses would be a happy medium that the City Council could initially set, and then, revisit as time goes on or as needs change. Elliott says the cap would likely only apply to residential areas of the city and not in places like Downtown Jacksonville. She says the city would not want to stifle any growth, especially on the above ground level stories of the historic buildings that are now in use.

Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Brittany Henry, who has worked with Elliott on the issue, says its great having multiple options for people wanting to stay in Jacksonville. She says its really important to have short-term places to rent because they are at a premium in the city: “I mentioned at the City Council’s workshop that we have 221 units for sale, so that’s how many rooms we have. If you came into the City of Jacksonville, we have 221 rooms in the city to rent, and that includes our short-term AirBnBs, VRBO rooms as well. Having access to those room nights are very important, especially when we are trying to attract people here for special events, helping with sports room nights, anything with Illinois College, basically anything that’s going to generate an overnight stay. It’s always nice to have more inventory.”

Henry says having more room nights from a visitors and tourism standpoint is good, but from an economic growth standpoint, there needs to be housing stock available for people wanting to live and work here: “With what the city has been working on along with the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation and the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce with workforce development and housing is having single-family homes for that workforce development that they are trying to create more jobs for the area in order to get people to move to Jacksonville. We are definitely a great destination for people who are finding they want to be in smaller communities and a more simple way of living and a more affordable place as far as cost of living goes. We’ve got a lot of great amenities here in Jacksonville that still has a small town feel with a big town vibe. We’ve had people walk into my office and say, ‘Hey! We’re looking to move to Jacksonville. We’d love some brochures.” But one of the things that we hear the most is it’s hard to find a house here in Jacksonville.”

Henry says, from a tourism and visitors standpoint, it’s not a bad thing to have houses on the market around the city. In fact, attracting new residents always starts with a visit first: “I always say it always starts with a visit. Touring a community, whether you’re coming here to look at a job or maybe you’re just passing through, often at times it starts with a visit and people fall in love with your community. Then, they want to stay. Nobody rolls into a community for a first time that’s not a ‘visitor.’ It’s very important to remember.”

Henry says that the City of Jacksonville does have visitors spill over into the Village of South Jacksonville’s larger hotels when they can’t stay in the city proper. In total, Henry says that the area has 423 room nights to rent.

The Jacksonville City Council is expected to continue discussions surrounding a possible ordinance capping the number of short-term rentals at their next meeting scheduled on February 26th.