A way to bring tourism to Chicago’s neighborhoods

SHARE A way to bring tourism to Chicago’s neighborhoods
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Ald. Proco Joe Moreno. | Brian Jackson/ Sun-Times
Brian Jackson

I’ve been a resident of Wicker Park for nearly 20 years and I have seen this neighborhood grow in amazing and unexpected ways. With our stores, music venues, and restaurants, we are more than just a neighborhood – we are also a top tourist attraction. Yet, a lot of visitors still find it hard to stay overnight in our neighborhood or even nearby because we have few hotels.

We all know the majority of hotels are concentrated downtown, providing access to many great attractions and world-class museums, but Chicago has a lot to offer visitors beyond downtown. Yet, it can be difficult for visitors staying in hotels downtown to experience our whole city.

OPINION

That’s why I support Airbnb – it gives visitors the opportunity of “living” local. Whether they are here for a wedding or to see a concert, Airbnb is a reliable option to stay near friends and family and experience our great city as a local. As neighborhoods continue to grow in popularity and developments build up around us, it has also become an important resource for thousands of Chicagoans to make the supplemental income they need to stay in their homes. In fact, the average Airbnb host in Chicago makes about $5,000 a year – money that strengthens the community.

As the chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Economic, Capital and Technology Development, I do not support recent efforts in City Council to make it harder for Airbnb to operate in our city. With confidence, I say we should embrace the new technology that makes it easier for people to visit and enjoy our city while driving extra revenue to our communities. We should welcome new people into our neighborhoods, not making it harder for them to stay overnight.

It’s also good for business. The city must embrace homesharing platforms and give visitors the option to stay in Chicago’s neighborhoods, increasing tourism and local economic activity in small businesses, restaurants, shops, and other community attractions.

One neighborhood in my ward, Wicker Park, was recently named the top destination for “staycationers” in Chicago. Wicker Park is hosting visitors from Chicago and the surrounding suburbs at a rapid pace and our local businesses are booming. I don’t want to see these visitors turned away when they are looking for their next vacation or quick getaway and I certainly don’t want to see our community hosts or local business owners suffer because we prevent “staycationers” and others from using Airbnb.

As a long time advocate of affordable housing, I support funding for homeless services. We must, however, ensure that the new revenue policies do not inadvertently hurt our neighbors who use homesharing to pay their mortgages, property taxes, particularly in developing communities.

I urge my colleagues in City Council to see the bigger picture and embrace Airbnb in Chicago. It’s a good thing to have more people staying local in our city of neighborhoods. Let’s make sure we keep our visitors’ options open and support the economic benefits that come with it.

Proco Joe Moreno is alderman of Chicago’s First Ward.

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