Former 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns will be promoting his new employer, home-sharing company Airbnb, at a special talk today on the industry’s rapid growth in Chicago and the impact of several City Council ordinances to regulate the industry.
Burns, who vacated his seat on the City Council earlier this year to accept a job with Airbnb as a Director, Midwest Policy and Senior Advisor, will join the founders of 1871, the city’s largest tech incubator, at Merchandise Mart this morning.
According to the summary of the event, Burns is expected to tout the company’s positive impact on the city’s economy. Airbnb’s growth in Chicago has grown exponentially since the platform first extended its operations to Chicago in 2009. Airbnb did an analysis of their economic impact in Chicago, from July 2014 to June 2015, that found 165,800 guests used their platform to find a place to stay. Over that same period, 4,550 Chicagoans rented out their homes. According to Airbnb maps tracking rentals in Chicago, most are along the lake and on the city’s North Side.
Burns’ move to Airbnb and his talk today comes as the City Council is expected to consider competing proposals to regulate the industry. Mayor Rahm Emanuelsupports one of those plans, although it has gone nowhere since he introduced it in January. In its original form, the plan would impose a 2% surcharge on vacation rentals and shared housing units, bringing in an estimated $1 million in revenue for affordable housing. Mayor Emanuel has since warmed up to the idea of doubling that surcharge to 4% to allocate an additional $1 million in estimated revenue to reducing the city’s homeless population, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The following month, Aldermen Anthony Napolitano (41), Pat O’Connor (40) and Marge Laurino (39), all of whom represent heavily residential neighborhoods on the city’s Northwest Side, co-sponsored a similar ordinance. The main difference: Chicagoans living in residentially zoned areas would be prohibited from putting their homes or flats on Airbnb for rental.
Five other aldermen signed onto a third proposal introduced in March that is focused more on bed-and-breakfasts. Under the ordinance, anyone who knowingly operated this type of establishment in the last two years without a proper license would be prohibited from applying for the license in the future. The city defines bed-and-breakfast establishments as, “any owner-occupied single family residential building, an owner occupied, multiple-family dwelling building, or an owner-occupied condominium, townhouse or cooperative, in which 11 or fewer sleeping rooms are available for rent or for hire for transient occupancy by registered guests.” That ordinance is co-sponsored by Ald. Brian Hopkins (2), Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno(1), Ald. Pat Dowell (3), Ald. Michele Smith (43), and Ald. Tom Tunney (44).