The ongoing saga over regulating Airbnb rentals in Chicago may not be over, according to City Council Housing Chairman Joe Moore (49), who tells Aldertrack that there is a “50/50” chance there could be another committee hearing to consider yet another revision to Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed regulations.
“I think there are some changes as we continue to make sure that people are comfortable with the ordinance and have an opportunity to have their concerns aired and addressed,” Ald. Moore said Wednesday of the ongoing talks.
Any additional changes won’t be favorable for Airbnb, aldermen tell Aldertrack. One pointed to Airbnb’s recent tv ad blitz against the Mayor, mayoral staff’s criticism over the ads, and concerns from neighborhood aldermen about rentals of single family homes to signal the majority of aldermen want more, not less regulations.
A joint meeting of the Council’s License and Housing Committees approved the Mayor’s proposed regulations minutes before the May 18 City Council meeting, after conducting a lengthy hearing the day before. Since introducing an outline of regulations in January, the Mayor has received stiff criticism from downtown and North Side aldermen who represent wards with the most bookings, and from Airbnb proponents who don’t want to see the service’s growth stifled.
The language has since gone through multiple revisions–it underwent three re-writes before a committee vote on the plan was called. Even then, the vote to consider the proposal passed committee in a tight 12-8 vote. The actual vote to approve the measure passed 17-9. At the time, Ald. Moore, citing ongoing concerns about the ordinance, chose not to report out the ordinance to the full Council for a vote that day.
Yesterday, Moore told Aldertrack that downtown and North Side aldermen who represent areas of the city with the highest concentration of Airbnb rentals still don’t think the regulations go far enough. He cited concerns over reporting requirements, whether the city has the ability to effectively regulate Airbnb, and whether owners of single family homes should be required to remain on the premises when they rent out a room.
A working group of aldermen have been meeting regularly since that May 18 committee meeting to discuss how the ordinance could be improved. They’ve already held two meetings and have another scheduled for this Friday, Aldertrack has learned. One alderman who has attended those meetings tells Aldertrack that while no new language has been drafted yet, Airbnb has “the most to lose” from the ongoing talks. That source said several aldermen who represent wards zoned mostly for single family homes want more local control, not less, an argument that seems to contradict Airbnb’s ad campaign against the Mayor.
As the law currently stands, it is illegal for anyone in a residentially zoned district to rent through Airbnb without first obtaining a special use permit from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals. That allows the local alderman and neighbors to have a say in the matter. Those controls, which are rarely enforced, are done away with in the Mayor’s plan, the chief reason Ald. Marty Quinn (13) voted against it last May in committee. After the vote, Quinn told Aldertrack that 95% of his Southwest Side ward is made up of single-family homes. “I have some real concerns about turning single family home blocks in the 13th Ward into areas that have a lot of transition,” he said.
“In a perfect world, they’d like to have a hearing and a vote, but I don’t know yet,” said Ald. Moore. If any changes are made to the current ordinance, Ald. Moore and License Chairman Emma Mitts (37) would have to hold another joint committee hearing and vote.
Despite the recent flood of TV ads funded by the Internet Association criticizing the Mayor’s proposed regulations for being unduly burdensome for lower income homeowners–the ads argue the Mayor sided with the Gold Coast and the “1%” in drafting the measure–Ald. Moore said he hasn’t heard any concerns from aldermen saying the ordinance is too strict.
“I think Airbnb folks, who seem to be pretty tone deaf, need to realize that,” Ald. Moore said of the commercials, which he said he hasn’t seen personally.
“If the Mayor was looking for the easy, most politically expedient way out, he would listen to the concerns expressed by Ald. [Brendan] Reilly and Ald. [Michele] Smith,” Ald. Moore explained, suggesting they’re the ones who want to “kill all Airbnbs.”
Ald. Smith’s office confirmed with Aldertrack yesterday they are continuing to negotiate with the Mayor’s office for stronger regulations and protections for their ward to be included in further revisions. The Mayor’s Office and the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection declined to comment.