City leaders are still taking feedback about an ordinance that would impact Airbnb and other short-term vacation rentals, and local residents have had a range of reactions to the proposed regulations.
Dan Nice has been an Airbnb host in New York and also in Chattanooga, he said. He and his wife stopped hosting recently after they had a child.
To him, the proposed local regulations are too restrictive and have the potential to put some hosts out of business.
He and his wife could have been booked up 80 to 90 percent of the time, but they weren’t running a hotel, he said. They were just doing it for a little extra cash.
His family probably made between $6,000-$8,000 a year on average, he said.
“If I had to get a permit, get inspections … it’s a lot of work for good money, but not great money,” he said.
In his experience, most people are making relatively little money renting out an extra room, and the entire Airbnb system is self-regulating with a review system that keeps hosts in check, he said.
The local Airbnb market was competitive before he got out of it. At that time he estimated there were about 50 locations. The number of local rentals available on Airbnb fluctuates, but this week there were about 160.
One bad review can hurt a location’s visibility on the website by knocking it down in the list of possible places to stay, he said.
“You can’t fake these reviews,” he said. “The vetting is being done by people who actually use it and not by the government.”
Nice suggested that a better solution would be for hosts who make a certain amount of money over a certain time to be regulated, because they are operating more as a business instead of a doing it as a hobby.
On the other side of the issue are Christian “Thor” Thoreson and Christina Holmes, who have managed property in Northwest Georgia for nearly 10 years and recently started looking for opportunities to expanded business into Tennessee.
They have participated to a limited degree in the discussion with local leaders about the short-term vacation rental regulations.
Although their properties wouldn’t be impacted by this proposal because they don’t live within the city limits of Chattanooga, Holmes said she expects other areas to start following suit with similar regulations, which could affect her properties eventually.
Holmes, who is also a real estate broker, said the proposed ordinance isn’t burdensome for owners.
“I’ve seen regulations from other cities that were insane-30 pages as opposed to 3.5,” she said.
Area visitors don’t perceive a difference in vacation rental properties-whether it’s an Airbnb or other similar rental or a home like the ones Holmes rents. One bad experience reflects poorly on the entire area, she said.
She wants all of the visitors who come through the area to get a professional, pleasant experience, she said.
“Plus, I believe it will add protection to those residents now living near illegal rentals from burdensome neighbors when necessary,” she said.
Local regulations are still in the works.
The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency has drafted a proposal-which is still being revised-that would require Airbnb operators to get a business license and special permit.
In the past couple of years, as more area residents seek to rent out all or part of their homes, the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Agency and Commission have been getting rezoning requests.
So far leaders have allowed for some rezoning as a workaround to accommodate Airbnb operations. But a special permit process eliminates the need for rezoning, which leaders said isn’t an ideal solution. Click here for more background.
Chattanooga isn’t alone in proposing regulations.
Airbnb notes on its website that regulations vary by city, and this case study analyzed the impact of regulation and taxation on “sharing economy … Internet-based platforms,” such as Airbnb.
According to the study from the University of Chicago Law Review, companies such as Airbnb are still in the budding stages, but they are “growing rapidly,” with collective revenue estimated to be in excess of $3.5 billion in 2014.
The study cited an Airbnb co-founder commenting about how new business models such as these don’t always fit into traditional regulations.
“There were laws created for businesses, and there were laws for people,” Brian Chesky said, according to the study. “What the sharing economy did was create a third category: people as businesses.”
San Francisco leaders have passed some regulations, while citizens have voted down some of the more restrictive rules, such as capping short-term rentals at 75 nights a year for each unit, according KQED.com. There has been tension there about the regulations. Click here to read more about that from the New York Times, which reported that Airbnb now has more than of 2 million listings in more than 34,000 cities.