Lightfoot proposes stricter rules on short-term rentals

Measures would eliminate single-night stays and tighten other restrictions on hosts and companies

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Getty)
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (Getty)

No to single-night stays and loopholes for licenses. Yes, to tiered fee structures and additional city enforcement power. Those are some of the changes in Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s new proposal aimed at Chicago’s short-term rental business, according to Crain’s.

Lightfoot proposed the measures for the likes of Airbnb, VRBO and others, in part targeting so-called “party house” owners who rent out their properties for a night, much to the consternation of neighbors. The mayor’s change would also give the city added power to toss hosts who violate the rules.

The plan to eliminate single-night stays could also be a boost to the city’s struggling hotel industry. In mid-July, Chicago’s hotel occupancy rate hovered at 36.6 percent, according to industry tracker STR.

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The other proposals involve requiring short-term rental hosts to secure a license before they rent out rooms or properties. Existing restrictions — Chicago passed an ordinance regulating short-term rentals four years ago — allows a host to rent a property while still waiting to receive a license, Crain’s reported.

The current ordinance does include a number of restrictions, like allowing condominium boards and multifamily landlords to ban short-term rentals, the report noted. It found that about 300 of Aibrnb, VRBO and HomeAway’s more than 8,800 listings had license applications still in the works.

If the added changes are approved, they would also create a tiered fee system, so the smaller platforms could better compete.
Before the pandemic, Airbnb had been a strong performer in Cook County. Over the five biggest weekends in 2019, Airbnb hosts raked in $31.3 million countywide for Lollapalooza, Pride Fest, the Chicago Marathon, Labor Day and a weekend in mid-August. [Crain’s] — Alexi Friedman