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Ordinance Regulating Short-Term Rentals In Cincinnati Gets Delayed

Bakery Lofts
Flickr Creative Commons
Over-the-Rhine is a popular spot for Airbnb rentals in the city. Council Member David Mann wants to regulate such rentals so as not to take housing options away from those who truly need it.

A Cincinnati Council member said Wednesday he'll wait before presenting an ordinance regulating short-term rentals. This includes rentals with Airbnb and similar web-based sites.  

Council Member David Mann has been working on the issue for several months.  He says he's concerned short-term rentals could further reduce affordable housing units in the city.

The item will likely be on Monday's Budget and Finance committee agenda.

"First, I think I'll set it for a lot of discussion at a future meeting and then we'll consider what revisions, if any, are necessary," Mann said. "I think we're talking about the better part of a month before I would be asking for a vote."

According to information from Mann's office this proposal will:

  • Distinguish between rental of a room within a home or apartment and rental of an entire home, condo or apartment. The latter is defined as an un-hosted short-term rental
  • Cap the number of un-hosted units a host may operate at three
  • "Host" is defined to include ownership through entities including corporations, LLCs, etc.  
  • Grandfather existing units beyond the three-unit cap, so that a current host may continue operating units currently on the market if he or she has more than three
  • Require current hosts to register and obtain a license for existing units
  • Require registration for all short-term rental units (even rooms in hosted homes)
  • Require licensing for un-hosted rentals of entire dwelling units
  • Require hosts to comply with applicable building, zoning, housing, and fire codes
  • Levy an excise tax of 7 percent and earmark it for affordable housing preservation and development in Cincinnati

A coalition of city residents, affordable housing developers, labor and advocates said in a statement they've been studying the trend toward full-time, short-term rental sales and conversions.
"We have seen newly renovated housing marketed and sold to investors as non-owner occupied full-time Airbnb rentals, and kept off the market to renters and working families," read a statement from the Coalition for Sensible Short Term Rental Policy. "We have seen developers attempt to turn entire buildings into illegal Airbnb hotels in Over-the-Rhine."

The coalition said it generally supports the provisions of Mann's proposal.  It also released its own principles for short-term rental legislation.

  • Regulate short-term rentals of entire dwelling units - that is, an entire apartment or an entire house - for periods of 30 days or less at a time
  • Owners may only rent entire dwelling units on sites like Airbnb for 90 days out of any calendar year
  • Units may only be rented by permanent residents who live in the property at least 51 percent of the calendar year
  • Owners must obtain a license to operate their business and renew the license every year they want to continue the business
  • Units are subject to city inspections to ensure compliance with relevant zoning, safety, housing and building codes
  • Owners need to have liability insurance for the property, and pay taxes on the rental income, including transient occupancy tax. Failing to comply with any part of this law could result in revocation of the license or a fine
  • Owners must pay a livable wage to people who clean the property
  • Online platforms must be responsible for the collection and remission of applicable taxes
  • Online platforms must require owners to list their city license/registration number on the rental platform
  • Online platforms must operate in a transparent manner and share complete and verifiable data with the City
  •  It must be illegal for Airbnb to list a property without the valid registration/license info and failure to do so will result in penalties
  • Platforms (Airbnb) should also have a licensure process with a commensurate significant fee to the City. This will aide in enforcement since the license can be revoked for failure to comply with data sharing and other obligations
  • All revenue from license/registration fees related to short-term rentals and a portion of revenue derived from taxes on STR activity will be dedicated to a local Affordable Housing Trust Fund to support efforts for preservation and development of affordable housing

"We support the individuals who occasionally choose to rent their permanent residence for a weekend or while they vacation for a week or so. And we support the neighbors who rent a room in their own home to visitors," the statement said. "But we object to the loss created by taking entire units permanently off the market, thus removing opportunity for families in need of permanent housing. In other communities, the practice has been proven to raise the price of units for sale and rent and to have other negative effects on already burdened people, neighborhoods and communities."