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Michigan City's Washington Park

Property owners in LaPorte County, with its long lakeshore near a variety of homes, took in more than $2 million in revenue this year renting all or parts of their homes on Airbnb. The county's long lakeshore features views like this sunset at Michigan City's Washington Park.

Airbnb hosts in Northwest Indiana pulled in more than $3.5 million in extra income in 2018, with LaPorte County claiming the largest chunk.

Airbnb, the online platform that allows homeowners to rent their homes to visitors, reported that hosts across Indiana accommodated 322,000 guests in 2018, making $36 million. More than 4,600 Hoosiers now rent out their homes through Airbnb, earning about $4,800 a year, according to the company.

Airbnb hosts in LaPorte County, which has many homes lining Lake Michigan in beachfront communities, pulled in $2.3 million from 15,000 guest arrivals, according to the company. That ranked fourth in the state, after $14 million in Marion County, $5.3 million in St. Joseph County and $3.1 million in Monroe County. Marion County is home to Indianapolis, St. Joseph to the University of Notre Dame, and Monroe to Indiana University.

Lake County, the second most populous county in the state and neighbor to world-class attractions in neighboring Chicago, ranked eighth statewide, with Airbnb hosts pulling in $651,000 from 5,600 guest stays.

Porter County, home to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Valparaiso University, was 10th with $603,000 in income from Airbnb hosts. People rented out homes in Porter County through Airbnb 5,400 times in 2018, the company estimates.

Airbnb argues that its service complements, rather than competes with, hotels.

"The most recent report from the Indiana Office of Tourism Development demonstrates that Indiana hotel occupancy rates and revenue have grown steadily even as local hosts welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests," Airbnb said in a press release. The company suggests it has expanded the demand for lodging in the state.

Local tourism officials have voiced concerns over the years about Airbnb undermining traditional hotels, which have higher operating costs, have to follow more stringent safety standards, and generate more tax revenue for the community.

South Shore Convention and Vistors Authority President and CEO Speros Batistatos said Airbnb upends zoning laws that have traditionally separated residential areas from hotels, and minimizes the amount of tax revenue paid during travel and by homeowners who still claim a homestead property tax exemption while running a business out of their home.

"You normally have the homes in one section of town and the hotels in another," he said. "Zoning laws protect your investment in property, whether it's a steel mill or your home. You want to ensure the right things are happening in the right areas. It upends the entire model to use a private home as lodging without requiring a fair and level playing field or ensuring safety."

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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.