AirbnbsBy ANTHONY WARREN,
Foote hoping to draft ordinance governing temporary rentals
For the time being, residents are at the mercy of Airbnb owners who have the ability to run their temporary rentals unchecked.
But that could soon change, with one Jackson city councilman hoping to craft an ordinance governing Airbnbs by the first part of this year.
Jackson Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote hopes to work with the administration to draw up an ordinance to regulate the operation of Airbnbs and other temporary rental facilities in the city.
He says the ordinance is needed, in part, because the use and popularity of Airbnbs have soared. As the number of Airbnbs grow, inevitably so have the number of complaints.
“There have been a couple of events that have people concerned,” Foote said, referring to incidents that occurred in the Avery Circle community. “A lot of this will be getting ordinances from other cities, looking at what they’ve done and coming up with a plan that will be fair for our residents.”
In recent years, Airbnbs have popped up all across the Northside. The company’s website showed 88 listings for Northeast Jackson, Fondren and Belhaven, not including ones in Madison and Ridgeland.
With Airbnbs, owners rent out their homes for temporary lodging for travelers. Rates range from $20 to crash overnight on someone’s sofa to hundreds of dollars a day to rent entire homes or apartments.
Many Northsiders like the idea of Airbnbs, because it gives them an opportunity to make some extra income. Others, though, say Airbnbs have become a nuisance that needs to be addressed.
Casey Creasey, executive director of the Greater Belhaven Foundation, has fielded calls from several neighbors concerned about Airbnbs.
Among concerns, Airbnbs are being leased to multiple tenants at once, while others are being leased to customers for multiple weeks at a time.
“Parking has been another concern,” she said. “It is limited anyway, and cars are just collecting in areas.”
Airbnbs have also stirred up controversy in Northeast Jackson and Fondren.
Neighbors along Pennsylvania Avenue were awakened in the early morning hours in November when a party at an Airbnb there spilled out into the street.
Karen Baker who lives a block away from the property, thought there was a riot going on.
“I was wearing earplugs and it woke me up,” she said. “There were probably 150 people milling up and down the street.”
Residents there called the police and the party was broken up in a couple of hours. The owner apologized profusely and since then no other incidents have occurred, Baker said.
In the summer, two incidents occurred on Avery Circle, prompting calls to Foote.
Since then, though, no further complaints in that area have been reported, he said.
Susan Fontenot said owners must do a better job of screening their tenants and policing their rental properties.
The interior designer owns two Airbnb facilities in the 700 block of Pennsylvania near Kings Highway.
“I make friends with my neighbors. They all have my phone numbers and If anything out of the ordinary happens, my neighbors can call or text me,” she said. “They are comfortable calling me in the middle of the night.”
Fontenot reads Airbnb reviews to screen guests and has a list of rules for tenants to follow when staying at her homes. “Every host reviews their guests once they leave, so I have a feel for who I am getting,” she said. “Airbnb is helpful in assisting hosts.”
According to an October 2018 article in The Washington Post, short-term rentals like Airbnb have grown by 82 percent.
While the popularity of Airbnbs have soared, cities across the United States have struggled to keep up.
Some cities have passed regulations curbing Airbnbs to protect the hotel industry. In July, San Diego officials voted to ban vacation rentals in secondary homes, and “limiting short-term stays to one’s primary residence.”
Local leaders, as well as some residents, question how Airbnb regulations could be enforced.
“I can’t tell you, ‘you can’t rent a room at your house to somebody,’” Zoning Administrator Ester Ainsworth said. “People do it all the time. College students do it all the time.”
However, the city’s zoning ordinance does limit the number of unrelated tenants that can reside in a single-family dwelling. In most residential areas, the number is six, Ainsworth explained.
“They are very hard to regulate,” she said. “They don’t’ fit anywhere.”
In Ridgeland, Airbnbs are prohibited by the city’s rental ordinances.
According to the code, dwellings can be rented for a minimum of 30 days, and a license is required for the rental of any dwelling for a period of less than three months.
“It is not permissible to rent a dwelling unit for less than 30 days, which is typically less than an Airbnb rental arrangement,” Mayor Gene McGee said.
Even so, five Ridgeland properties were available for rent on the Airbnb website.
McGee didn’t doubt it. “It’s just like speeding. It’s illegal, but we don’t catch everyone speeding on the interstate.”
Airbnbs are not regulated under Madison city ordinance.