Keep out wel­come mat for home shar­ing

Short-term rentals are boom­ing in Michi­gan; lo­cal zon­ing reg­u­la­tions shouldn’t trump prop­erty rights

The Detroit News - - Front Page -

The in­ter­net has made the world a much smaller place, with strangers able to con­nect in­stantly through apps when they need a ride or a place to stay. While there are grow­ing pains in this new “shar­ing” econ­omy, the ben­e­fits out­weigh the neg­a­tives. And the Leg­is­la­ture is right to seek pro­tec­tions for the ex­pand­ing home-shar­ing in­dus­try in Michi­gan.

Pop­u­lar short-term ren­tal sites such as Airbnb and HomeAway have fu­eled a de­bate in the U.S. over what role the govern­ment should play, if any, in reg­u­lat­ing the in­dus­try. States and cities are com­ing up with a va­ri­ety of ap­proaches. Michi­gan should come down on the side of pro­tect­ing an in­no­va­tive in­dus­try and pre­serv­ing pri­vate prop­erty rights.

Bills in the House and Sen­ate, in­tro­duced ear­lier this year, would do that by lim­it­ing lo­cal gov­ern­ments’ abil­ity to re­strict short­term rentals through zon­ing or­di­nances. Specif­i­cally, the bills would pre­vent mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties from ban­ning or lim­it­ing own­ers from rent­ing their homes for less than 28 days at a time.

We un­der­stand the con­cerns of some lo­cal of­fi­cials and neigh­bors who don’t ap­pre­ci­ate a pa­rade of new peo­ple stay­ing at the house next door, per­haps cre­at­ing noise and un­cer­tainty. Those con­cerns should be ad­dressed, but through av­enues that don’t threaten the rights of other prop­erty own­ers.

Home shar­ing has proven hugely suc­cess­ful in cities like Detroit, where home­own­ers can ben­e­fit from rent­ing out a spare room while guests get a feel for what the Mo­tor City is re­ally like.

Other com­mu­ni­ties aren’t so thrilled with how Airbnb and sim­i­lar sites have en­cour­aged home­own­ers to rent out their en­tire house. For in­stance, The Detroit News re­cently re­ported that Spring Lake passed an or­di­nance lim­it­ing own­ers in two res­i­den­tial zones to one or two short-term ren­tal pe­ri­ods of up to 14 days a year.

That’s not a fair way to han­dle the rentals, says Brian Westrin, le­gal af­fairs di­rec­tor with Michi­gan Real­tors, which sup­ports the state bills.

“Law­mak­ers seem to un­der­stand the pri­vate prop­erty rights an­gle very well,” Westrin says.

Lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties should en­force other com­mon mea­sures — for in­stance, reg­u­lat­ing noise and park­ing — to ad­dress the con­cern with short-term rentals.

Ben Breit with Airbnb’s Midwest pub­lic af­fairs of­fice says an­noyed neigh­bors should al­ways feel free to re­port bad ac­tors to the com­pany, which seeks to re­move such hosts from their list­ings.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the state’s pow­er­ful tourism and ho­tel lobby is fight­ing the leg­is­la­tion, along with some lo­cal govern­ment groups that see this as a lo­cal con­trol is­sue. Home shar­ing has cre­ated com­pe­ti­tion for the ho­tel in­dus­try, and it would like to see more lim­its and reg­u­la­tions on th­ese new rentals.

In a let­ter to the state House, the de­trac­tors got to the heart of their con­cern: “Th­ese short­term rentals also are un­fair to ex­ist­ing lodg­ing and busi­nesses statewide who con­trib­ute so much to Michi­gan’s tourism econ­omy.”

But for the Michi­gan home­own­ers who earned more than $25 mil­lion last year through short-term rentals, it’s a very good deal. Detroit is do­ing so well with Airbnb that it was one of a dozen global sites for the com­pany’s new Ex­pe­ri­ences op­tion.

This leg­is­la­tion seems like a fair way to pro­tect a grow­ing in­dus­try that ben­e­fits both prop­erty own­ers and trav­el­ers in Michi­gan.


Michi­gan should pro­tect an in­no­va­tive in­dus­try and pre­serve pri­vate prop­erty rights.

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