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Latest Airbnb Proposal Not Good Enough, Ald. Smith Says

By Ted Cox | June 16, 2016 7:52pm
 Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) and Business Affairs Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek have been at odds on Airbnb.
Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) and Business Affairs Commissioner Maria Guerra Lapacek have been at odds on Airbnb.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — City officials pitched new proposed rules on home-sharing businesses like Airbnb Thursday, but a Lincoln Park alderman said they aren't good enough. 

If the proposed ordinance were approved, Chicago would have the weakest restrictions on vacation rentals of any major tourist destination, said Ald. Michele Smith (43rd). 

Comparing Mayor Rahm Emanuel's latest proposal to laws on the books in Berlin, New York City and Austin, Texas, Smith said other major cities have limits on the number of days they can operate and on the number of vacation rentals allowed in a neighborhood.

"None of that is in this ordinance," Smith said. 

Smith said that the law doesn't distinguish between homeowners renting their places while they're away and businesses that are renting properties with the help of Airbnb.

"Despite being pressed repeatedly to try to distinguish between homeowners who are renting their own homes for occasional rentals, and full-time investors that are making a buck out of being in a residential neighborhood, no, nothing has happened," she added.

"I think that people who live in a residential neighborhood are entitled to have protections of quality of life," Smith said. "They've invested in homes that are designed to be surrounded by homes, not by hotels."

The Emanuel administration countered that Smith has had ample input. 

"Over the past month the administration has collaborated closely with an aldermanic working group that includes Ald. Smith to finalize the details of a regulatory framework that works for a city as diverse as Chicago," said mayoral spokeswoman Shannon Breymaier. "The ordinance includes the most robust data-sharing approach in the country, important limitations on the density of these listings in residential neighborhoods, a revenue stream for both enforcement and to support homeless services, and an enforcement regime that will give the city the tools to crack down on bad actors and illegal units."

According to the administration, the latest proposal does place limits on vacation rentals. According to the proposal, no more than one unit in a two to four-flat and a maximum of six or a quarter of all units in a building, whichever is less, will be allowed. Airbnb will also have to make biweekly reports on listings to the city.

Smith charged Wednesday that her Lincoln Park neighborhood is being "sold off" to investors using homes as rental properties, in the face of a record increase in property taxes. She led opposition to a home-sharing measure that passed the Housing Committee a month ago and won a delay for it to be amended, but so far she rejects what she feels are the meager attempts at compromise.

"I don't know what's gonna happen," Smith said. "An awful lot of aldermen raised concerns about the lax nature of the legislation."

Smith expects the issue to come up Tuesday in the Housing Committee ahead of Wednesday's City Council meeting.

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