Nashville Seeks Consensus On Short-Term Rental Regulations, ‘Once And For All’ | Nashville Public Radio

Nashville Seeks Consensus On Short-Term Rental Regulations, ‘Once And For All’

Jul 20, 2017

Members of the Metro Council say they must “once and for all” find a way to regulate short-term rentals in Nashville. This follows months of arguments and competing ideas for what to do about services like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway.

“As many meetings as we have had … people are not happy,” said Councilman Jim Shulman. “The idea is, once and for all, to bring everybody to the table.”

He’s been put in charge of a special committee on short-term rentals, and they have until the end of September to make a new plan regarding what types of rentals should be allowed — and where — along with how to enforce the rules.

“Everything is on the table,” Shulman said. “You’re trying to make everybody sit at the table and work through these issues and see if there’s any ability to move everybody toward something that both sides can … they may not be happy with in the end, but that both sides can live with.”

The special committee formed after a contentious public hearing in May, when more than 100 residents spoke about a short-term rental proposal known as Bill 608.

That bill from Councilman Larry Hagar attempts to phase out short-term rentals from residential zones in cases where the property owner lives off site — also referred to as “non-owner-occupied” rentals — by 2020.

On one side are residents who say the city never should have permitted these short, moneymaking stays within neighborhoods — especially when entire homes become full-time Airbnbs. And critics decry so-called “party houses” that attract large groups of tourists to places with no oversight

Equal passion comes from those who operate short-term rentals and their ability to supplement incomes and fill Nashville’s acknowledged hotel shortage. Several argued that for the council to ban non-owner-occupied rentals now — two years into the current regulations — would dramatically harm the investments they’ve made.

This question of whether to ban non-owner-occupied rentals is still under consideration, but a vote was postponed while the special committee does its work.

To bridge the divide, Shulman said the council committee will conduct new research, review policies in other cities, and intentionally invite presentations from speakers willing to work toward a compromise.

But reaching consensus won’t be easy, as key opponents haven’t yet moved closer to agreement.

For example, Hagar still wants his phase out to pass for residential zones, “as is.”

“I think I have the votes,” Hagar told WPLN.

And in response to that idea, short-term rental company HomeAway continues to raise concerns. Spokesman Philip Minardi said bans haven’t worked elsewhere and would quash a huge economic benefit for the city.

“We welcome the idea of a registration program that works … that’s easy for folks to comply with and easy for folks to understand,” he said. “We believe that Nashville needs an enforceable program that allows short-term rentals to continue.”

Minardi pointed to Nashville’s existing policy — adopted two years ago after a long round of meetings — as “a model.” 

This story has been updated to clarify the proposed phase out year of 2020 for non-owner-occupied short-term rentals in residential zones.