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From 'Asset' To 'Uncertainty': Both Sides Respond To Short-Term Rental Law

Bakery Lofts
Flickr Creative Commons
Over-the-Rhine is a popular spot for Airbnb rentals in the city.

Modifications are likely coming to a proposal to regulate Airbnb and other short-term rental housing in Cincinnati.  

City Council's Budget and Finance Committee heard from about three dozen people Tuesday on both sides of the issue.  

Sponsor David Mann has been working on such regulation for several months. He has said he's worried short-term rentals will further reduce affordable housing units, which already are in short supply.

"I believe short-term rentals are overall an asset to Cincinnati," said resident Buddy Goose during a public hearing at City Hall Tuesday. "But I encourage you to limit short-term rentals geographically, not just by neighborhood but by streets and further to blocks on streets."

John Schrider with the Legal Aid Society said his group supports regulation for two reasons.

"Short-term rentals are a growing and very important part and alternative to hotels, and just like hotels and other things like that, they should be regulated," Schrider said. "Secondly, short-term rentals have an impact on the neighborhood. They affect livability of neighborhoods and parts of neighborhoods, and they also affect the availability of housing."

But not everyone is supportive. Several residents who operate Airbnb rentals in the city testified before city council.  

Arnessa Allen has a couple units in Avondale and said she's concerned about the proposed inspections in the ordinance.

"For me to have to get an architect or an engineer to come in, that just brings uncertainty for me and I don't have the resources for that," Allen said.

Christopher Hikel testified that he was representing a group of about 60 stakeholders in the short-term rental industry. He said the group is not opposed to regulation, but it cannot support Mann's current proposal.

Hikel said the group would like to get to "yes" with some of the following conditions.

"Respect for the rights of stakeholders including owners, reasonable registration requirements, enables the owners to grow their businesses in a responsible and reasonable way; equitable and inclusive growth, and does all of this without introducing overhead to the city or to business owners," Hikel said.

Mann said he would take the public comments and work with council members on a different plan.  

Right now, there doesn't appear to be a majority of council members who would support the proposed ordinance.

Mann's original proposal included:

  • 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 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

Mann said when he introduced the proposal he was trying to strike a balance between affordable housing while encouraging tourism and entrepreneurship.