Will vacation rental industry be regulated in Chicago?

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CHICAGO – Will the vacation rental industry in Chicago be regulated?  That question was front and center during a hearing today.

Enforcement was the biggest concern for many aldermen at today’s meeting.  But Mayor Emanuel says that will come later and is interested in getting an ordinance passed first.

The crowds that came in support of home sharing were so large, the committee hearing had to be moved to council chambers and started two hours late.

It’s a battle between neighborhood residents, hotels and people who home share.  The mayor’s ordinance, scheduled to be voted on at tomorrow’s city council, would force vacation rentals in the city to get a license and pay taxes.

There are about 6,000 listings in Chicago on AirBnB, VRBO and HomeAway yet only 131 are licensed.  The license would cost  $5,000 to $10,000 dollars.

Most of the people at the meeting were in support of less restrictions on home sharing.  They do it to supplement their income.

43rd Ward Alderman Michelle Smith is one of the most vocal opponents of the ordinance.  She wants the vacations rentals limited.

“I have 600 of these and it’s leading to a housing shortage in my ward,” she said.

45th Ward Alderman John Arena suggests having another committee hearing before voting.

“It feels a little bit like we’re building the car while we’re driving (by) not having debate before trying to take a vote on it,” he said.

Although today Mayor Emanuel says he wants this vote taken quickly.

“We’re going to move forward,” he said.  “This is not the end all or be all but the idea that we’re going to stop is not going to happen. “

One thing that is certain about this ordinance is that a  4% surcharge tax will go to programs that help the homeless.