City Council committee approves revised Airbnb ordinance

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A City Council committee approved Wednesday a revised version of an ordinance for Airbnb and services like it. (WLS)

A City Council committee approved Wednesday a revised version of an ordinance that would enact new rules for travelers who want to rent space in Chicago through Airbnb or other home-sharing services.

Local Airbnb host Alpha Bruton said she relies on the company to make ends meet.

"I'm not alone. For thousands of middle class Chicagoans, home-sharing has become an economic lifeline," Bruton said.

She rents out the Bronzeville Artist Lofts. Bruton said doing so helps showcase the South Side to tourists who wouldn't normally venture into the neighborhood.

Other hosts who rallied at City Hall before Wednesday's meeting said the ordinance proposed Tuesday had "unrealistic expectations." They said there are around 4,500 property owners who rent out spaces using Airbnb, who made nearly $40 million in additional income last year. They also said their visitors generated $230 million for Chicago neighborhoods during that time.

Other Chicagoans told City Council at a hearing Tuesday they don't want Airbnb to exist at all. They said it's unsafe for regular homes to be turned into temporary hotels.

"To live in a situation every day where every week or two you see different people coming out - it's unsafe," an unnamed witness said.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to cap the number of days people can rent out their home at 90 days per year and wants to limit the number of units that can be on Airbnb per building. He also said a 4 percent tax hike on home rentals could generate millions of dollars to help the homeless in Chicago.

The mayor said ultimately, a decision must be made. He said Airbnb, in some form, will continue to exist in the city.

"We are going to continue to move forward and make the steps necessary to protect our neighborhoods and our communities - to invest in finding a new revenue source for our homelessness - and make sure what is an emerging industry without any oversight, gets the right oversight that it needs," Emanuel said.

The revised ordinance passed by the committee Wednesday requires all Airbnb hosts to obtain a license or form of registration with the city.

At the mayor's request, the full City Council vote was delayed until June 22. This allows for more time to work out the language.

Related Topics:
travelpoliticsairbnbtaxesChicago - Downtown
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