CITY HALL — A controversial reform package on home-sharing rentals like Airbnb cleared a joint City Council committee Wednesday, but will be held for at least a month for final Council approval.
The day after a five-hour hearing on the home-sharing issue, aldermen in the Housing and License committees approved the reforms by a 17-9 vote. Yet Ald. Joe Moore (49th), chairman of the Housing Committee, said he'd would not present the measure to the full Council for a vote until the June meeting.
"A number of aldermen asked for some time, so we're gonna provide that time," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who backed the delay.
Lincoln Park Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), who led opposition to the reforms, had promised to derail the matter through a parliamentary maneuver if it was brought to the Council floor Wednesday.
"This does not protect residential neighborhoods from real estate investors who are turning housing into hotels," Smith said. "This will hollow out neighborhoods."
The reforms proposed by Emanuel draw distinctions between home-sharing firms that handle the entire transaction, like Airbnb, and those that simply advertise rentals, like HomeAway and VRBO. Airbnb would report to the city on its rentals and offer them insurance, while others would be subject to a "vacation rental license."
Emanuel's reforms would limit rentals to one unit in a two- or four-flat, six units or a quarter of all units in a high-rise, whichever is less. A single-family home could be rented, but the owner would have to remain on the premises.
Late amendments offered Tuesday would have allowed property owners not meeting those requirements to appeal through an "administrative review process" with the commissioner of the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Aldermen complained that removed them from the process and granted the commissioner too much power.
An additional amendment made Wednesday, though, would not have allowed high-rise residents to appeal if their units were rejected as rentals. Another last-minute amendment set criteria for the commissioner to follow in granting exemptions.
All the 11th-hour tweaks, however, turned off some aldermen.
"I have a problem with voting on a 55-page document I got five minutes ago," said Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th).
She also took exception to the call for homeowners to be present for rentals.
"The whole purpose of Airbnb is to share your home when you're not there," Garza said. "I have an issue with enforcement. ... I don't know how we're gonna do that."
Business Affairs Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek said owners of single-family homes who rent their houses would be trusted on their word to remain in the house during rentals until events prove otherwise, at which point they could be prohibited from further rentals.
That didn't appease Smith.
"Airbnb told us yesterday they don't comply with laws they don't like," she said.
Oddly enough, some Airbnb hosts also pushed for the matter to be delayed. In a news conference before Wednesday's meeting, Alpha Vruton said she'd brought international tourists to Bronzeville through Airbnb rentals.
"Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, and our neighborhoods need to be shared," Vruton said. She called the proposal too restrictive and cautioned against "hasty actions on home sharing."
All sides now get a month to iron out their differences.
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