It looks like the home-sharing market around Midway Airport — if there ever was one — is drying up.
On Wednesday, Southwest Side Ald. Mike Zalewski (23rd) became the second of Chicago’s 50 aldermen to begin the painstaking process of declaring parts of his ward off-limits to Airbnb and other home-sharing services.
“Secured enough signatures for 11 precincts out of 39. Two bad incidents on the Southwest Side was enough to convince me this program is not what we want in our community. Goal is to complete all areas in 23,” Zalewski wrote in a text message to the Chicago Sun-Times sent during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
Pressed to describe the two “bad incidents,” Zalewski wrote, “One in Beverly New Year’s Eve. Single family home. Huge party. Shooting. Excessive music. Fire Department called. Floors and walls shaking. Also in 13th Ward.”
Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit stressed that home-sharing will not be banned around Midway Airport, even if the full City Council agrees with Zalewski’s recommendation.
“There is a misconception about these petition drives. These are not bans. Those who are already registered and licensed to share their homes in any of these precincts are allowed to keep doing so. They’re basically grandfathered in. So words like “ban” and “off-limts” are incorrect. What these moves do is restrict home sharing to anyone NEW who would want to do it,” Breit wrote in an email to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Earlier this year, Zalewski’s Southwest Side neighbor Marty Quinn (13th) became the first alderman to climb aboard the no-more-home-sharing bandwagon. He has been methodically going about the business of declaring each of his precincts off-limits ever since, with several more introduced at Wednesday’s Council meeting.
The precinct-based process is patterned after that used to let Chicagoans vote their precincts dry. Residents of districts zoned R-1, R-2 and R-3 — all dominated by single-family homes — can ban home-sharing outright or impose restrictions more rigid than the citywide ordinance. But to do that, residents of those zoning districts must gather valid signatures from 25 percent of their precinct’s registered voters within 90 days; the clock starts when the resident obtains the petition.
Opponents have a 30-day window to challenge those signatures. If the challenge fails, the local alderman introduces an ordinance implementing the ban or restrictions and those rules remain in effect for four years — thought that’s not ironclad. If precinct residents believe the ban or restrictions are not working well, they can circulate a new petition to undo those rules and the process starts over.
Quinn has said he went through that “pretty laborious” process after two egregious instances of home-sharing over the last year.
The City Council’s 43-to-7 vote last year to regulate the burgeoning home-sharing industry followed months of contentious debate on how to balance the interests of Airbnb hosts thrilled with the supplemental income with the concerns of neighbors dismayed by the rowdy antics of some short-term renters. The ordinance imposed a $60-per-unit fee, intended to generate more than $200,000 a year for regulation enforcement. There’s also a 4 percent surcharge on Airbnb and other home-sharing bookings, and a $10,000 annual license for each of the web-based companies.
The ordinance also mandates bi-weekly registration reports to the city, a 24-hour hotline and a requirement that Airbnb develop a plan to address “quality-of-life concerns” that include removing problem units from the company’s home-sharing platform.
The stalled regulations finally took effect in March. And last month, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration started the painstaking process of registering Airbnb hosts.
The city’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Services started issuing approval notices for 4,000 approved units listed on Airbnb.
Airbnb units were the only ones approved by the city because Airbnb is the only company that has been licensed.
Letters were also issued to a handful of other home-sharing companies urging them to start the licensing process, the commissioner said.
Homeowners renting another 1,200 units were notified that their units are “pending denial.” Some of those units are in 1,500 buildings that have taken steps to prohibit home-sharing on the premises. Others are pending denial for a variety of other reasons primarily tied to zoning or building code violations.