Revenue from a new tax proposed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel would fund domestic violence shelters.
The proposed two percent tax would affect home sharing businesses like Airbnb and is projected to raise $1.3 million. That money would allow the city to increase the number of beds in domestic violence shelters by 50 percent.
“This is about people, this is about helping vulnerable men and women and children who are victims of domestic violence,” said Commissioner Lisa Morrison Butler of the Department of Family and Supportive Services.
A similar, four percent tax to fund homeless services was implemented on home sharing companies in 2016.
“We’re not picking on anybody, but we’re actually picking on a problem and it’s going to solve it,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Airbnb representatives said the company’s main competitors do not pay the older tax.
“We support the Mayor’s desire to aid victims of domestic abuse and believe Chicagoans would be best served if the city ensured every short-term rental platform, not just Airbnb, collected Chicago’s taxes and fees, including this one,” said Airbnb spokesman Benjamin Breit in a statement.
Domestic violence calls are some of the most frequent calls to 911. Prosecutors consider increasing the number of shelters to be crucial
“Breaking the cycle of violence is difficult, it takes courage hope support and a safe place is crucial to all of these,” said Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx.
In response to Airbnb’s concerns, the mayor’s office said 40 companies, including major Airbnb competitor Homeaway.com, will have to pay the new tax if approved.
Emanuel said the previous tax to help the homeless did not hurt tourism and he doesn’t expect this one will either.
Emanuel also responded to comments by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that victims of domestic violence would not be eligible for asylum.
“The idea that that somebody trapped by domestic violence, we were talking about it in a domestic situation, that America is still not a place for hope, from despair,” Emanuel said. “So to Jeff Sessions, if you haven’t been to Ellis Island recently, don’t worry. I’ll pay for it.”