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Chicago passes restrictions on Airbnb, but some don’t see them as enough

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New York City might not be receptive to Airbnb’s short-term rentals, but Chicago sure seems to be. The city passed a measure that would allow the company to advertise such rentals, so long as Airbnb follows certain rules, reported the Chicago Tribune.

The new restrictions depend on the size of the building, with buildings containing five units or less needing to be listed one at a time. This can be changed if you can persuade the City Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection that you will suffer “an extraordinary burden” from listing one unit at a time, the city has the power to give you an exception. Larger buildings, meanwhile, can only utilize the service for six apartments or 25 percent of the total, whichever figure is less.

Interestingly, areas of Chicago with single-family homes can start petitions to either ban short-term rentals in their precincts or restrict such rentals to the “primary residences” of the listed properties. If these petitions get signatures from at least 25 percent of registered voters in their neck of the woods, the area’s alderman can then go to the City Council and have the petitions enacted as ordinances for four years. In a very meta sort of way, those petitions can themselves be petitioned to be overturned.

As for the financials, each Airbnb rental will be accessed a 4-percent tax that will fund services for homeless people. Furthermore, any Chicago address listed on Airbnb will carry a $60 charge, with the charge going to enforcing the new set of rules. Finally, in order to operate in Chicago, Airbnb will need to cough up $10,000. All of these fees will be accessed to Airbnb and not to people listing their properties on the service.

Critics of the new restrictions are wary of Chicago’s ability to enforce them. The city will have inspectors checking out possible violators, with Airbnb responsible for removing them from the site, but such investigations might be inconsistent and not thoroughly vetted. Furthermore, some argue that Chicago should have assessed higher fees to Airbnb, seeing how the company is valued at billions of dollars. Finally, critics accused Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel of not taking a firmer stance against Airbnb.

For Airbnb, the good news could not come at a better time, as the company currently faces hostility in New York in the form of a recently passed state senate bill that disallows the advertising of short-term rentals in the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo still needs to sign the bill in order for it to become law, and Airbnb and other entities in the technology industry have vocally opposed the bill.

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