Richmond passes new regulations for Airbnb and other short-term rentals
New rules governing short-term rentals in Richmond should make it easier to rein in more than a thousand unlicensed listings, city officials say.
What's happening: A total overhaul of the city's regulations surrounding Airbnb and similar sites.
- The changes are intended to limit unlicensed units that have proliferated in residential areas while allowing more listings in commercial districts than ever before.
The latest: City Council unanimously approved the changes on Monday night after months of discussion.
Why it matters: City officials framed the new regulations as a way to keep more housing units on the market for long-term residents.
- "We are in a housing crisis," planning director Kevin Vonck said.
Context: Under the city's existing rules, short-term rentals are only allowed in properties that are owner-occupied for more than half the year.
- In reality, however, it's been more of a free-for-all, with the city issuing just 63 official short-term-rental permits despite more than 1,000 active listings.
The new rules double down on the owner-occupancy requirement in residential districts.
- They also make enforcement easier by putting the onus on would-be operators to prove they actually live in the property using voting or DMV records.
Non-owner-occupied listings would only be allowed in commercially zoned areas, which the city reasons are already open to dense development and "transient uses," as the planning office puts it.
- The rules do set a few guidelines, namely limiting multi-family buildings to a maximum of 10 units and no more than a third of any given building.
What we're watching: Vonck has said a new focus on enforcement will accompany the new rules.
- He has committed to hiring two new zoning enforcement officers.
- And he said the city's decision earlier this summer to begin taxing Airbnbs like hotels has resulted in a trove of data that makes it easier than ever to identify unlicensed listings.
Of note: At the same meeting, city council members passed an ordinance allowing people to build accessory dwelling units, aka granny flats, on any single-family property in the city.
- And if you did build such a structure in your backyard, you would be allowed to rent it out as a short-term rental — even in a residential neighborhood.
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