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Videos: Ads Fire Back At Rahm's Airbnb Crackdown Plans

By Mae Rice in News on Jun 8, 2016 8:24PM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel is trying to crack down on Airbnb, and in response... Airbnb is trying to crack down on Rahm, by way of critical video ads. Recently, The Internet Association—a trade group of companies including Facebook, Google, Dropbox... and Airbnb—released several clips framing Rahm's proposed crackdown as an assault on Chicago's middle class.

Some background: The new ordinance Rahm's pushing would regulate every unit rented out through Airbnb (or a similar service) as a commercial rental property. The ordinance would also add an extra 4 percent tax to online rentals, which would help fund services for homeless Chicagoans.

That might sound sort of okay to you, but that's because you haven't talked to Chester yet:

"My rent is going up," Chester, a long-time Hyde Park resident and substitute schoolteacher, says at the beginning of the clip. "My salary has stayed the same." The income from short-term renting helps him make ends meet.

"I would say to Mayor Emanuel to leave the little guy alone," he concludes. (This is an especially effective comment coming from a teacher, given Rahm's ongoing conflicts with the Chicago Teacher's Union.)

Chester's not the only person (who does not give a surname in the video) who isn't feeling the Airbnb regulations. There's also Carrie:

Carrie, a Logan Square small business owner, says home-sharing allowed her to feed her family and pay her mortgage; it's also how she plans to pay her son's college tuition. Like Chester's neighbors, her neighbors don't mind her renting out her home at all—and she's helping out tourists as well as herself. "There are zero hotels in this neighborhood," she says of Logan Square (falsely).

"You can take things away from somebody today... but what is that going to lead to tomorrow?" she says at the end of her clip.

Reader columnist Ben Joravsky, who brought the videos to our attention, approves of the message—but also sees the irony in a lucrative, tech sector darling like Airbnb positioning itself as the voice of "the little guy," in the struggle for affordable urban housing.

Coming at a time when the mayor's trying to depict himself as the friend of Chicago who's standing up to [Gov. Bruce] Rauner, the commercials hit him where he's most vulnerable—they make him look like a tool of rich guys who doesn't give a shit about ordinary Chicagoans and remind people why he's known as Mayor 1 Percent.

Airbnb has spoken out on this issue not only through these latest video ads, but also through direct statements. "We support tougher tools to curb nuisances and providing neighbors with the resources to report potential bad actors to Airbnb so that we can take action," Airbnb spokesman Christopher Nulty previously told Chicagoist, of the ordinance. However, the company doesn't support regulatory hurdles that make it harder for Chicagoans to rent out their homes and apartments to "make ends meet," as Nulty put it.

[h/t Chicago Reader]