There's a HEATED debate going on in Chicago right now. See the full article here
How Many Airbnb Hosts Are Running “De Facto Hotels”? It’s Complicated
The short-term rental website keeps its numbers secret, but third-party data suggests Chicagoans should be concerned.
BY BETTINA CHANG
The increasingly nasty fight over Airbnb in Chicago will continue at least another month.
An ordinance to regulate the service cleared a committee vote last week but aldermen declined to hold a full vote until they could review some of the mayor’s 11th-hour changes. At issue are revisions in the ordinance that would curb the practice of “Airbnb on steroids,” as a recent Trib editorial dubbed it:
But a group of aldermen say the [original] ordinance strips away essential zoning protections for residential areas and fails to address other crucial side effects of the home-sharing business — namely the impact of hosts who rent out multiple units, throughout most of the year, operating as de facto hotels. This Airbnb-on-steroids disturbs neighbors, reduces long-term housing options for local apartment renters and threatens property values.
The mayor’s new proposal includes caps on the number of units in a building that could be rented short-term and requires hosts who rent out single-family homes to be present during rentals. In doing so, he lost the support of Airbnb.
“You shouldn’t model an ordinance based off what the fringes are doing,” says Christopher Nulty, an Airbnb spokesman. “The current [proposed] ordinance punishes the majority of people … and we’re concerned about the impact on the large number of hosts who use this as a tool to make extra money.”
So how many Airbnb hosts are really just renting out a spare room to make a buck, and how many are running something akin to a commercial rental business? The answer is complicated, because Airbnb rarely makes its numbers public. But data from Inside Airbnb—a website that scrapes data from the site—show that 57.7 percent of all Airbnb listings in Chicago are of whole houses or whole apartments, as of May 4.
And the report notes:
To some the Airbnb regulation fight may look like a Goliath vs. Goliath story—the hotel lobby and NIMBYs in wealthy neighborhoods sparring against a $24 billion company—but there is plenty at stake for the Davids out there. In major cities like Los Angeles, New York, London, and even the company’s home city of San Francisco, residents, activists, and politicians have argued that unregulated Airbnbs can exacerbate housing affordability problems.
A report by NYC real estate site The Real Deal last year suggested that by taking much-needed rental units off the market, Airbnb causes rents in Manhattan neighborhoods to be between $30 to $70 higher each month. (Airbnb disputed that analysis, saying the effect is lower—about $6 per month in New York, $19 in San Francisco—based on a study that it funded itself.) Considering that, as my colleague Whet Moser often points out, many Chicagoans are spending the majority of their income on housing, this could become another flashpoint in the battle over gentrifying neighborhoods.
On the other hand, Airbnb says it makes housing more affordable for hosts who can use Airbnb income to pay rent or mortgage. And Nulty says that the company has previously removed “so-called commercial listings” from the platform in order to improve user experience. However, the approach to such purges is different in each city—and in an interview on WBBM 780 this Sunday, two alderman accused Nulty and Airbnb of “backsliding” on promises to do so in Chicago.
“We’re not dismissing concerns about affordability in the city,” Nulty says. “That should be part of what is addressed in the ordinance. But enforcing the law … has to be up to the city itself.”