By Yixuan Chai
The City of Chicago wants to crack down on Airbnb and other home-sharing services, not the warm welcome many hosts expected.
“The proposed ordinance will make it easier for hosts who periodically rent out their living space … and in the process generate more than $1 million annually to support affordable housing and reduce homelessness in Chicago,” according to Ald. Joe Moore (49th), who sponsored the ordinance.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed the ordinance in January that would add a 2 percent surcharge on the rental rate of any shared-housing unit, bed-and-breakfast or vacation rental. The city already charges home-sharing services a 4.5 percent hotel tax. The regulation also requires Airbnb and other home-sharing services to get licenses for their units through an online process, which is aimed for security. The city will maintain an ineligible list to ensure problem units are prohibited from registration.
“Units that are rented more than 90 nights per year will be required to be licensed as a bed-and-breakfast or vacation rental,” Moore said. “Knowing where every one of these units is operating will help us protect the quality of life in our neighborhoods.”
But proposal irritated some Airbnb hosts who have high ratings among Airbnb hosts.
“Why should the city tax my hard-working income that I earn with Airbnb?” said Valerie Landis, an Airbnb host in River North. “Did they wash the sheets or clean my space? I already pay property taxes?”
Landis started renting her two-bedroom condo on Airbnb in July. She and other many Airbnb hosts in Chicago haven’t registered their units with the city. Moreover, Landis said Airbnb has its own security check to make sure the identification of both the hosts and the guests are authentic, which makes the city’s effort superfluous.
“I don’t trust what the city is going to do with the extra fund they will collect with this tax,” Landis said. “What I do in my own home is my own business.”
Landis said hosts are great guides for visitors, and city officials and lawmakers don’t understand what Airbnb means to tourism in Chicago: “We tell them [guests] where to eat, shop and spend their money.”
While some hosts resent the proposed ordinance, some guests say they are willing to pay a little more.
“The license will definitely benefit consumers,” said Ran Xin, who used Airbnb when she was traveling to cities like New York and Miami for more than 30 nights in 2015.
Consumers who seek a lodging experience that is different from a hotel stay should be willing to pay even if the price is higher, many hosts say.
Steven Shi, an Airbnb user, sees room for compromise: If the host has no detailed background information, such as a good credit record, the government should track the rental for safety purposes.
“Otherwise it is unnecessary, since the host has high ratings on Airbnb,” Shi said.
Correction: 02/18/2016. Originally the story incorrectly stated that Valarie Landis and many other Airbnb hosts haven’t paid the hotel tax. They have already paid the 4.5 percent hotel tax. Medill Reports regrets the error.