The fate of many Nashville Airbnbs and short-term rentals hang in the balance this week. The Metro Council is scheduled to vote on a measure that would halt any new permits in most residential areas to owners who don’t live on site. And the existing permits would begin phasing out. The measure was given preliminary approval by the city's planning commission Thursday night after a debate lasting until 1 a.m.
Owners of short-term rentals — some who live out-of-county, others out of state — are defending their source of income. And Megan McCrea, who lives across town from her Airbnb in East Nashville, says she's never had complaints.
"We have become friends with the neighbors there," McCrea said. "I actually know more of them than the condo I lived in for four years."
But neighbors have begun calling these rentals "mini-hotels," saying they don't belong in residential neighborhoods. After two years of permitting Airbnbs, the Codes Department data shows roughly half of the 2,600 short-term rentals are investor-owned. Karen Rich, who says her elderly mother lives beside a busy Airbnb, argues that communities are starting to feel the affects, beyond the occasional noisy bachelorette party.
"Nobody has mentioned the fact that when you have transients coming in for the weekend, you don't have families living in these homes. You don’t have children going to the neighborhood schools, you don't have families supporting the neighborhood schools," she told the Planning Commission.
The panel signed off on the proposed restrictions, which don't have much affect on owners who live on the property with their rental unit. Investor-owned units in commercial areas would also still be allowed.
Yet an alternative proposal drawn up by the Metro Planning Department seeks to maintain the investor-owned option. It substantially raises the fees to apply for a permit and increases enforcement. Airbnb's Laura Spanjian flew in from Houston to tell the commission she hopes that option will be considered.
"While there may continue to be some issues that need to be discussed as we move forward, we look forward to you giving us and the [Metro] Council an opportunity to bring a truly state-of-the-art permitting and enforcement system to this city," she said.
The Planning Commission did not give its recommendation to the proposal supported by Airbnb, but ultimately the Metro Council has the final say. Airbnb is also working on the state level to guard against what it sees as excessive regulation from cities.
In its marathon 8-hour meeting, the Planning Commission debated the short-term rental regulations and heard from residents on both sides. The action begins at hour four in the video above.
Correction: The original post incorrectly stated what share of short-term rental permits would be affected. Another line was updated to clarify that commercial areas would still allow investor-owned permits.