Chicago Wrestling With How To Regulate Airbnb

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago is wrestling with how to regulate the new, digital, “sharing economy.”

First it was ride-sharing, like Uber and Lyft.

Now, it’s home sharing, fast-growing services like Airbnb.

As CBS 2’s Derrick Blakley reports, a proposed ordinance is stirring opposition from all sides.

In 2015, Airbnb host Mary Kay McCaw rented two apartments in her classic Lincoln Park three-flat for nearly 250 days of the year, but Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to limit short-term rentals to just 90 days, which would severely reduce her income.

“It’s like telling the corner grocery store or the restaurant or Starbucks on the corner that ‘oh you’ve been operating for 365 days a year and now you have to restrict your business to 90 days,’” McCaw said.

After 90 days, the city would require stringent licensing, with a lot more red tape.

“That means that if people are doing Airbnb, they’re doing home sharing for a short time period, after they reach that cap, it’s almost impossible for them to become licensed,” said Airbnb executive Will Burns.

But Gold Coast resident Sam Lichtenfeld isn’t worried about owner occupants renting out a room or two. He’s worried about absentee owners, like the three or four on one Gold Coast block, creating parking problems, loud parties and litter.

“It also impacts property values,” Lichtenfeld said. “If you are trying to sell your house next to animal house, your property value is going to go down.”

He wants an even lower cap on rental days and so does 43rd Ward Alderman Michele Smith, who worries about rushing regulations into law.

“There’s no reason to rush,” Alderman Smith said. “We don’t want this to become another parking meter deal in which, this time, our residential streets are essentially sold off.”

Negotiations in progress regarding exactly what the law would contain, but CBS 2 has been told Mayor Emanuel would like to get an ordinance on the books, perhaps as soon as next week.

Airbnb insists 82 percent of their hosts rent out space in homes they occupy, with the average host earning $5,000 a year.

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