The local committee continues to discuss the future of vacation rentals in Cook County
Restricting the number of vacation rentals in places like Lutsen, Tofte and the Gunflint Trail is an idea that appears to be gaining momentum as the Cook County Vacation Rentals Committee prepares for its final month of discussion on the future of the industry at the local level. .
At an Aug. 15 meeting of the newly formed Vacation Rental Committee, members of the group — made up of community members, county officials, resort owners, short-term rental operators and others – have agreed on the framework of the process which could, in a sense, limit the number of vacation rentals in operation at any given time in Cook County.
Although not a hard ‘cap’ or moratorium, the Vacation Rentals Committee agreed that a ‘trigger’ mechanism could be a valuable tool to potentially limit the number of rentals vacation rentals to approximately 325 units in total for all of Cook County. There are currently 270 licensed vacation rentals in Cook County, according to Director of Land Services Tim Nelson. The notion of a “trigger” essentially means the county will take action if 325, or another predetermined number, is reached in the number of licensed vacation rentals in Cook County, Nelson said. Such action could include setting a cap on the number of vacation rentals allowed in the county, or other similar policies and recommendations, he added.
“If we hit a certain number (of vacation rentals),” Nelson said, “whether it’s 300 or 325, that would prompt us to look more closely at putting a limit, or a cap, on the licenses issued. “.
When it comes to vacation rentals in Cook County, much of the community talk goes back to the lack of housing options for the local workforce and the rising cost of housing locally. The role that vacation rentals play in these scenarios remains largely speculative, although many in the community have an opinion on the matter. Information shared at the August 15 vacation rental committee meeting regarding the total number of vacation rentals in Cook County adds perspective on the situation, Nelson said. During the meeting, County Assessor Bob Thompson told the committee and members of the public that between 2019, when the county began tracking the number of vacation rentals locally, and January of this year, there was a net decrease in one vacation rental overall. of Cook County.
This fact seems to contradict the opinion of some members of the community who frequently blame vacation rentals as the reason for the lack of housing in Cook County, Nelson acknowledged.
“And yes, people are buying houses and converting them into vacation rentals. But there are also people buying vacation rentals and converting them into homes,” Nelson said. “So that was interesting, because you would think a lot of the housing is occupied by vacation rentals. And apparently that’s about 5% of the housing stock that we have in the county.
The Cook County Vacation Rental Committee is set to conclude its discussion and subsequent recommendations to County Council in the coming weeks. Nelson said the purpose of the vacation rental committee was not necessarily to try to bring together community members’ opposing views on vacation rentals into a unified space. Rather, he said, it is about understanding how local county government oversight can play a role in keeping the situation sustainable.
The next Cook County Vacation Rental Committee meeting will be Monday, August 29 from 3-5 p.m. at the Grand Marais Courthouse. The meeting is open to the public. It will be recorded and posted on the county’s YouTube page. The meeting will not be broadcast live, according to county officials.