Hate to burst the bubble, but we should regulate Airbnb, VRBO and the like
Crain’s Chicago Business | Michael L. Reever

Chicago residences rented through Airbnb, VRBO and other websites without proper licensing and regulation may irreparably harm Chicago’s tourism industry. A vibrant tourism industry is critical to the Chicago economy and provides thousands of jobs to local workers.

The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce does not want to see these jobs and tax revenue at risk because a segment of the marketplace is not licensed.

The chamber embraces the shared economy. In the case of lodging, it brings activity to neighborhoods, provides supplemental income to residents and keeps Chicago current with other global cities. Services like Airbnb, however, have become big business. Instead of our neighbors renting their home for a week each year, entrepreneurs are buying up blocks of condos for the exclusive purpose of renting them out 52 weeks a year.

More troubling is that less than 200 of the more than 6,000 Chicago short-term rentals are licensed and few, if any, follow hotel industry safety protocols.

The hotel industry and condominium associations have implored the city to crack down on illegal rentals, but very little has been done.

New ordinances were recently introduced in the City Council that make regulation somewhat murkier, but we envision a simple fix: All laws must distinguish between somebody’s primary residence versus the non-primary business operations described earlier. One hundred percent of non-primary residences must be licensed and adhere to similar regulations as hotels.

Our longtime Chicago hoteliers have operated within the law and provide hard-earned tax dollars to city revenue. Licensing all non-primary residences is not only responsible but necessary.

Michael L. Reever is vice president of government relations for the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.