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Airbnb rentals up | Indiana man sold guns to West Side gangs | West Siders feel 'job sprawl'

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By Community Editor

Airbnb rentals way up on West Side ahead of Riot Fest

According to recent company data, Airbnb bookings have increased by more than 800 percent from 2014 to 2015 in North Lawndale, which hosted the three-day music event Riot Fest last year.

Company officials say there's a "clear connection" between large events and rentals. According to May analysis of the data by the Chicago Tribune, "Overall, the number of guests who took advantage of the online home rental platform across the West Side — which also includes Humboldt Park, West Town, North and South Austin, and East Garfield Park — jumped from 26,000-plus in 2014 to more than 52,000 in 2015."

That boost in rentals makes a difference of millions of dollars. Last year, West Side Airbnb hosts "earned nearly $8.8 million from renting their property, twice as much as the $4.2 million in 2014 and more than quadruple what the hosts made in 2013," the Tribune reports.

"According to the report, West Side hosts made an average of $7,050 in 2015, more than the citywide average of $4,500 per host. Last year, Airbnb hosts in Chicago collected a total of nearly $34 million from sharing their residences."

Indiana man sold guns illegally to convicted felons and gang members

An investigation conducted by the Chicago High Intensity Drug Trafficking Task Force, in cooperation other area law enforcement agencies, has found that an Indiana man, Willie Lee Biles, Jr., may have sold guns purchased from licensed dealers in that state to gang members and convicted felons on the West Side.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Biles made multiple trips in 2013 from his home in Indianapolis to Chicago on a Megabus, "each time bringing with him a gym bag full of handguns.  Biles had legally purchased more than 30 firearms from licensed dealers in Indiana."

"Once in Chicago, Biles would sit on the porch of a residence on the city's West Side and sell firearms to individuals for two to three times the price that Biles had paid for them,"

Last month, a jury found Biles, 44, guilty of willfully selling firearms without a license. Biles's guilty charge carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. He's due back in court on Nov. 16 for a sentencing hearing.

West Siders feeling impact of 'job sprawl'

A June 2 article published by the Chicago Reporter fleshes out just how tough it can be for West Side workers to commute to jobs in far-flung suburbs. The Reporter profiles Austin resident Andre Davis, a 32-year-old retail worker, who doesn't own a car and has to rely on public transportation to get to work.

"Sometimes I have to call off because the buses don't even run to some of these locations or I have to ask ahead of time to send me somewhere that's closer to public transportation," Davis told the Reporter. "I am not trying to be stranded anywhere."

According to the Reporter, more and more low-income employees like Davis "are making the reverse trek outside the city for retail and manufacturing jobs in suburban Cook and surrounding collar counties. What experts call 'job sprawl' and 'spatial mismatch' — the disconnection between where people live and where they work – is changing the commute for some residents. Spatial mismatch disproportionately affects African-Americans in metropolitan areas with high poverty rates and high levels of segregation."

Read the entire article, entitled "Reverse commute is a long haul on public transit," at chicagoreporter.com.

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