There is an ordinance on the table in Oak Park. In short, Bed and Breakfast owners would like Airbnb listings to place the same 4% occupancy tax that Bed and Breakfasts obtain from guests. Last night's Village of Oak Park Board meeting read the ordinance and provided the public an opportunity to respond to the idea. Another reading of the ordinance, along with more discussions, is slated to take place on September 19.
The 4% tax is meant to provide revenue to Oak Park tourism. Based on Airbnb data obtained from a respected third party, this currently amounts to $6,000 a year. As we are committed to the mission of keeping small businesses open and providing as much competitive advantage fo them to do so, we at 68 Cents don't think the 4% tax is a good idea. Here's why.
Guests may not want to pay yet another fee to Airbnb
Occupancy taxes may make visiting in Oak Park less viable. This results in potential loss of revenue AND discovery at local Oak Park area stores (this includes Berwyn, River Forest (where Airbnb is banned) and Forest park. Most Airbnb guests charge a cleaning fee, which is in addition to the commission to Airbnb.
Oak Park is close to Chicago - this is an advantage
The hidden gem of Oak Park is its proximity to downtown Chicago. With the valued cultural treasures of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway, coupled with the status as a national arboretum, Oak Park is the perfect place to visit. One foot in a tree lined oasis and the other in the heart of the Midwest and one big, grand Lake. Why impose yet another fee on guests to enjoy this?
Will the 4% tax really boost Oak Park's tourism?
We do appreciate the 4% fees being used for overall Oak Park tourism, however, with the amount of development and general activity for what is coming to Oak Park, it's already on the rise with press and awareness. Homes are selling quickly. The schools continue to surge in the rankings. Oak Park is also experience an historic moment in time where we are revisiting our diverse roots and working as best as we can to keep them in tact - while keeping the socio-economic equality in check.
It is our opinion that the additional tax for Oak Park Airbnb listings has more cons than pros. Oak Park is known for its progressiveness on all fronts. Let that progressiveness continue with embracing the new economy and ways in which scientists, doctors, students and travelers discover this fine village. Icing on the cake is creating an environment that is open to all visitors, while keeping the barriers down for those small businesses who are expanding their customer base.
If the ordinance does pass, we hope that detailed rules apply to how the money is used and that there is transparency around the spending every quarter. We also suggest earmarking a portion of that money to specifically assist the marketing efforts of small businesses in and around Oak Park.