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Airbnb Reforms OK'd, As Ald. Smith Calls Home Sharing 'Newest Scheme'

By Ted Cox | June 22, 2016 5:03pm | Updated on June 24, 2016 10:50am
 Airbnb reforms passed over the opposition of Ald. Michele Smith.
Airbnb reforms passed over the opposition of Ald. Michele Smith.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — A hastily assembled "compromise" on home-sharing firms like Airbnb was approved Wednesday by the City Council.

Airbnb cheered it, pledging to comply with a new $10,000 "intermediary license" to rent properties in Chicago. It would also create a $250 "operator's license" for those renting properties on a for-profit basis, and another $250 license for homeowners listing properties through HomeAway and VRBO.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) was not appeased, calling Airbnb "the newest scheme for real-estate investors" who are buying up properties in Lincoln Park to serve as commercial rentals.

"Chicago is racing to catch up with a runaway, short-term rental train," she added. According to Smith, cities around the world, led by London and Paris, are trying to rein in Airbnb rentals. She said, "Bad actors continue to operate unchallenged" in Chicago and elsewhere and urged a new law to "limit the number of buildings, and specifically commercial buildings, in an area."

Downtown Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) voted in favor of the reforms, but agreed, saying, "I don't trust this company," and insisting New York City was spending $10 million a year to regulate Airbnb.

Ald. John Arena (45th) said it basically undercuts the city's zoning laws, which limit commercial properties in residential areas.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel, who pushed the reform package, lauded how it calls for Airbnb to be licensed and said it was "making progress" and "not allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good."

Earlier, Smith claimed Airbnb was responsible for properties being "sold off" in Lincoln Park to provide commercial vacation rentals. She said the lack of stronger restrictions on Airbnb would "hollow out" her ward.

Smith called for limits on Airbnb rentals in given areas, and for a distinction to be drawn between homeowners doing vacation rentals and commercial properties, but they were not part of the final package.

An earlier home-sharing proposal cleared committee, but was abruptly pulled back a month ago in the face of Smith's opposition.

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