STRs In Your Neighborhood
Dear Neighbor, 
As your Alderman, I want to bring to your attention an issue that touches every resident of our Ward: Short-Term Rentals.
A Short-Term Rental (STR) is renting a room for home for a  couple of nights, like a hotel. The vacation rental industry here is still relatively young, but it is exploding around the world. Industry giant Airbnb has become a $25B global business in just 8 years. And now this trend has taken hold in Chicago.  In 2015, there were 3,500 Airbnb listings in the city. Today there are 5,100, 600 of which are in the Lincoln Park/Gold Coast area alone. Yet, less than 200 STRs are legal. Many of us have had a good experience with Airbnb or know of good operators. But uncontrolled growth of STRS has prompted eight community organizations representing nearly 100,000 of their neighbors to sign-on to this editorial seeking stricter regulation .

Next week City Council may be asked to vote on an ordinance governing short term rentals. Some fellow Aldermen and I think we must not rush a decision  that could haunt us like the Parking Meter Deal. We need to heed the lessons learned in cities around the world when it comes to short term rentals impact on quality of life, displacing residents, property values, available rentals for citizens, parking and congestion and loss of revenue. I am joined by Aldermen Brendan Reilly (42), Brian Hopkins (2), and Tom Tunney (44) in this editorial that appears today in the Sun Times.
Regardless of number of nights rented, when Airbnb enters a residential neighborhood there can be lasting negative consequences, as some 43rd Ward neighbors have experienced

In the 43rd Ward, over 70% of Airbnb listings are non-owner occupied, further squeezing the rental market in Lincoln Park, which has only a 2% vacancy rate. What happens to neighborhoods when you lose your neighbors?
Berlin just banned all non-owner occupied STRs to protect its traditional rentals. Austin, Texas has a moratorium on new, non-owner occupied vacation rentals until 2017, and they will be banned by 2022. London has a three month limit on homeowners renting their own units, and Paris requires short-term rental owners to keep an equivalent long-term rental property available.
Chicago seems headed in the wrong direction. Under a proposal promoted by the Mayor's office, current regulations on STRs would be lifted. STRs would be allowed to operate in every part of the city with no limit to the number in a Ward, on a street, or even on a block. Residents would be almost powerless to shut down bad operators.  Some realtors are discussing whether a nearby STR should go on seller disclosure forms as a property "stigma." And the trend creates safety concerns both for guests and residents that must be addressed.
Attracting families and retaining committed residents in the 43rd Ward has been a singular aim of my tenure as your Alderman. By calling for limits on STRs per building and block, notifying Airbnb when buildings prohibit STRs, capping the number of days of unlicensed rental to 15 annually,  protecting side street parking, and providing a path to discipline nuisance renters, I believe we can protect the neighborhoods you call home.

I encourage you to make your voice heard. Please let me know if you are willing to get in involved in this effort. For more information about what you can do, call or email my office at 773-348-9500 or

Check out some of the latest print and broadcast coverage of this issue:

Michele Signature

Michele Smith
Alderman, 43rd Ward