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Michigan Is One Step closer To Blocking Cities From Banning Airbnbs
Dated: November 8 2021
State House representatives made an early morning decision to clear the path for short-term rentals to operate in any Michigan community.
The Airbnb app icon is seen on an iPad screen, Saturday, May 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)AP
In a 2 a.m. vote, lawmakers OK’d House Bill 4722, which would bar local governments from outright banning short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO properties. Similar legislation is still waiting to be read in the senate.
Bill author Rep. Sarah Lightner, R-Springport, acknowledged that hotels are still struggling to recover from pandemic lulls, but argued that the bill gives travelers more lodging options, which is an overall gain for the state’s tourism industry.
“Our hotel industry had been hit really, really hard during COVID,” she said. “However, even myself, I used a hotel multiple times a year, but I’ve also done short term rentals. I think people just use the best of both worlds.”
Lawmakers have tried to tackle regulation of short-term rentals in the past, but Lightner said HB 4722 was a narrower bill to stop cities from banning short-term rentals outright. The bill only focuses on zoning, and Lightner said she expects another bill package will address taxation.
Some local governments already have ordinances addressing short-term rentals. Detroit and Grand Rapids require rentals to be a primary residence where the owner would be present during the stay. Still, blocking a short-term rental ban didn’t sit right with Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss. She wrote a letter arguing against both bills, saying eliminating zoning protections opens the door for “mini hotels” and would undermine the safety and culture of neighborhoods.
In response, Lightner penned a substitute to the House bill. The substitute states short-term rentals cannot be zoned out of existence, but allows local ordinances to regulate noise, traffic, advertising and capacity.
After the early morning passage of the bill, Michigan Municipal League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin released a statement saying the only gains are for commercial interests and out-of-state business owners. Concerns around rentals eating up an already low housing supply are also at the forefront, Gilmartin said.
“This calamity is entirely avoidable,” he said. “This bill will pour lighter fluid on an already red-hot housing market should it become law, making it even harder for families to put roofs over their heads. Those voting yes on this legislation hold the responsibility for the entirely predictable and disastrous outcomes this measure will produce. Michigan residents deserve better. We implore the Senate to reject this rolling disaster headed to a neighborhood near you.”
In response, Lightner said the legislation added protections after hearing those concerns.
Under the bill, local governments could limit the number of rental properties a host owns, but the limit cannot be fewer than two. Cities also would have to allow at least 30% of housing to be rentals before setting a cap.
Still, the passage of HB 4722 has raised the ire of Michigan’s hospitality industry. Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association President and CEO Justin Winslow said the bill takes power away from local governments and will slow the recovery of the hospitality industry.
Michigan has only recovered 83.2% of its hospitality jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“Michigan’s hotel industry remains in a weakened state from a pandemic that is still presenting very real challenges to its survival 18 months later,” he said. “It was disappointing, then, to see the House of Representatives work through the night to pass legislation that will make the hotel industry’s recovery that much harder.”
The MRLA conducted a small survey this summer among 400 registered Michigan voters. Survey results found 89% were concerned that taking away local control of short-term rentals would result in increased housing costs, more crime and fewer homes for residents.
“It is a tone-deaf handout to mostly out-of-state corporations that will erode neighborhoods, increase crime and cost jobs,” Winslow said. “We all deserve better than this and that opportunity still exists in the Senate.”
Senate Bill 446, which mirrors HB 4722, has not been voted on in the Senate.
Source: mlive.com by Lindsay Moore
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