Raise your hand if you’ve used Airbnb or Vrbo to book a stay on what we vaguely recall as vacations or long weekends. More space than a hotel room and the intimacy of being embedded fully in a destination you want to genuinely experience.
Whether you are visiting Savanah, San Antonio or Oak Park, there is a lot to be said for the private home rental experience.
But, as with any phenomenon driven by big tech, there is reason to be cautious; there is reason for local government to consider regulations, taxation and, more broadly, the impact of private vacation rentals on the overall housing climate of their towns.
Oak Park is currently looking at new regs around Airbnb and its competitors. The spur, not surprisingly, was an Airbnb rental at an Oak Park two-flat in May that went badly sideways. It appeared to be a party hosted by younger people that ended with two dozen shell casings littering Lombard Avenue and one person shot with a non-life-threatening injury.
So, yes, let’s find ways for village government to get a clear handle on just who in town is renting rooms, apartments/condos, houses as a vacation spot or one-night party room. An annual license seems minimally appropriate. The amount proposed in an ordinance being reviewed by the village board is $350 a year. There is also talk of increasing the tax levied on these rentals that would put Oak Park in line with other communities.
Here’s the larger issue that needs to be considered: Oak Park clearly has issues with affordable housing. Tough to get entry into Oak Park. Tough to stay and pay the high taxes. Apartments and condos are the entry point of least financial resistance for many. If, for instance, condo owners are now renting, via Vrbo, a unit they might have in the past sold because they can now cover costs and make a few bucks while waiting for the unit to appreciate, then that takes an affordable unit of housing out of play.
Trustee Ravi Parakkat raised that issue in a July board discussion. Tammie Grossman, the village department head who covers this issue, did not disagree that the issue is real. She said having new license and reporting requirements could help the village gauge how to balance short-term and long-term rentals to achieve multiple goals.
An initial ordinance may be passed shortly but we’d say this is an ongoing housing issue that is going to need review and ought to be considered within the new board’s goals on affordable housing.