Nov 27, 2019

Cities see red over short-term rental party houses

Kim Hart, author of Cities

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Private properties in Sunbelt tourist magnets are increasingly up for rent on short-term-rental platforms like Airbnb, HomeAway and Vrbo — prompting some local officials to fight back.

Why it matters: Cities are on edge after some high-profile incidents, including a shooting that killed five at a Halloween party held at an Airbnb rental in a San Francisco suburb last month. Afterwards, Airbnb banned "party houses" and cracked down on unauthorized conduct.

The big picture: A chief complaint against home-rental companies has been their potential impact on housing prices in already unaffordable places. In some markets, the bigger complaint is that rental properties are becoming such popular alternatives to hotels that they are drastically changing the nature of neighborhoods — and even chasing away families.

What's happening: Residents are becoming peeved in communities across the country.

  • A home near Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego is consistently a party scene, and residents worry Airbnb's rules won't be enforced, per NBC 7 in San Diego.
  • A shooting at a house party at a rental home in Plano, Texas, spurred residents to push the city to take action, per CBS 11 News.
  • Some Cape Cod residents report endless bachelorette parties, blaring music and fire pits that have fundamentally changed the neighborhood, per NBC 10 in Boston.

What they're saying: The trend was a hot topic of conversation at last week's National League of Cities City Summit in San Antonio. Elected officials from many small and mid-sized cities decried the rise of outside investors snapping up homes as rental properties, and the increased cost to public safety in dealing with disturbances.

  • In Tennessee: "We're seeing homes in neighborhoods turned into party houses with police having to be called out every week," said Nashville City Councilwoman Gloria Hausser. "We're seeing families needing to move out because it's not a neighborhood anymore."
  • In Florida: Ormond Beach City Commissioner Troy Kent said neighborhoods in his beach-town community have been overrun with short-term rentals. He no longer knows his neighbors and routinely witnesses behavior that requires public safety's attention. "It's wildly inappropriate," he said. "That's not what my constituents signed up for. There's zoning for that."
  • In Texas: College Station Councilwoman Linda Harvell expressed concern that short-term rentals can cost the city more due to police calls and clean-up needs, yet they don't necessarily pay occupancy taxes like hotels are required to.

The other side: Amanda Pedigo, vice president for government affairs at Expedia, which owns short-term rental platform Vrbo, said the company wants to work with cities to develop regulations for rental properties to alleviate concerns.

  • Vrbo has set up a portal for neighbors to file complaints about properties. "We're committed to getting rid of party houses," Pedigo said, adding that all short-term rental owners should be paying hotel occupancy taxes.
  • Seattle is one major city that has regulated short-term rentals to cut down on abuse. Most rental operators can operate only two units. Seattle set up a special tax on short-term rentals equivalent to what hotels pay.
  • San Francisco's rules allow only permanent residents to host short-term rentals. Rentals without the owner present are limited to 90 days a year.

The catch: Legislatures in some states, including Tennessee, have passed laws on short-term rentals. But some city officials say state-wide laws can limit city-specific restrictions that try to go further.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Tennessee's law does not pre-empt cities from passing short-term-rental ordinances.

Go deeper

Virginia governor announces removal of Richmond's Robert E. Lee statue

Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Thursday that the state will remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond's historic Monument Avenue.

Why it matters: It's a watershed moment for Virginia, which has been at the center of a years-long national debate about whether Confederate monuments should be displayed publicly. That discussion reached a boiling point when protests about a statue of Lee in Charlottesville turned violent in 2017.

RNC expands convention search across the Sun Belt

Donald Trump, Mike Pence and their families on the last night of the Republican National Convention in Ohio in 2016. Photo: David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images.

The Republican National Committee is planning site visits over the next 10 days to more than a half-dozen cities — across the South and into Texas and Arizona — as it scrambles for a new convention host, people familiar with the internal discussions tell Axios.

Driving the news: The RNC's executive committee voted Wednesday night to allow most of the convention to move — with only a smaller, official portion remaining in Charlotte — after North Carolina's governor said the coronavirus pandemic would mean a scaled-back event with social distancing and face coverings.

Oil faces tough road back from coronavirus

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Oil companies in the battered shale patch are starting to bring back some production as prices climb, but a new report underscores how the pandemic is taking a heavy financial toll despite signs of revival.

Driving the news: Fourteen North American producers have filed for bankruptcy thus far during the second quarter, per a tally from the law firm Haynes and Boone, which closely tracks the sector's finances.