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Cincinnati Council To Consider Revised Short-term Rental Legislation

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

A Cincinnati Council member is back with another proposal to regulate short-term rentals in the city.  David Mann's proposal is directed toward rentals with Airbnb and similar web-based sites.  
But he shifted his focus to the safety of those who stay in short-term rentals. His original focus was protecting affordable housing units in the city.

Mann has been working on the issue for several months.  

He held his original proposal that was introduced in the fall following a November public hearing where about three dozen people spoke on both sides of the issue.

"We have met with various groups and have continued to review what's happening in other cities and are coming forward with significant revisions," Mann said.

Mann said the biggest change is there's no longer a proposed cap on how many units an individual or company can operate. Mann said he was getting push-back on that issue from those who operate short-term rentals and some of his fellow council members.

"I think the biggest remaining concern is going to be this requirement of an independent certification as to safety by an engineer or architect," Mann said. "There will be a cost associated with that. It's a one-time cost. It's not something that has to be done each time the license is renewed. But I'm convinced from talking to our own building's inspections people that we have a problem that should be addressed."

Mann said while he's concentrating on safety, he's still concerned short-term rentals could threaten the number of affordable housing units in the city.

The statement from Mann's office describes the latest ordinance as follows:

  • Requires every host to register to operate each of his or her units listed on a short-term rental platform
  • Requires every host to display a registration number in the corresponding online short-term rental listing
  • Requires hosts in buildings with four or more units to obtain a certification from an architect or engineer that the short-term rental unit is in compliance with the codes that apply to the dwelling unit and the building
  • Levies a 7% excise tax on all short-term rentals and earmarks the revenue for the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (proposed by the short-term rental host advocates)
  • Recognizes that the short-term rental industry is distinct from the hotel industry and accordingly does not apply to hotels otherwise regulated by the municipal code
  • Regulates the number of units per building that are permitted to be operated as short- term rentals:
  1. For buildings containing four or fewer dwelling units, there is no limit on the number of short-term rentals that may be operated in the building
  2. For buildings containing five or more dwelling units, four short term rentals plus one additional short-term rental for every four dwelling units in excess of four dwelling units is permitted

The same e-mailed statement listed what the proposal does not do:

  • Require a license in addition to registration
  • Distinguish between rental of a room within a home or apartment and rental of an entire home, condo or apartment
  • Require hosts in buildings with three or fewer units to obtain a certification of code compliance from an architect or engineer

In November, 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.

At that same hearing, 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."

City Council's Budget and Finance Committee is expected to discuss the issue Monday. Mann is not sure yet whether there will be a vote during that meeting to advance the issue to the full City Council for approval.