Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Does racism drive Nashville's crackdown on Airbnb's?

by Chris Butler, Tennessee Watchdog -  Rowdy, loud-mouthed drunkards who carouse all hours of the night.

Thoughtless, self-centered people who adjust their speakers to full volume at 2 a.m., without care or thought for the neighbors, and profane behavior and language that would redden the face of any hedonist.

It’s a portrait certain Nashville Metro Council members paint depicting those who use Airbnb’s. As reported, Airbnbs are home-sharing programs that operate much like an Uber app. Instead of people using their cars to compete with cab drivers, they share their homes.

Council member Davette Blalock in an email to Tennessee Watchdog said her constituents have complained about these type people “disrupting normal, quiet neighborhoods.”
In another email, council member Burkley Allen said these people are “unruly guests.”

They and their colleagues are taking steps to clamp down on these home-sharing programs, and if they have their way, certain people who run Airbnbs won’t get a license to operate.  Others say it’s mostly bluster.
(RELATED — Nashville’s ritziest hotels get corporate welfare )

Shan Canfield
“There are laws on the books that are already supposed to deal with those things. If there are noise code violations then the city needs to enforce what is on the books,” said Mark Cunningham, spokesman for the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free-market think tank.

“I’m sure some of the stories about partying are true, but some of those stories seem exaggerated based on people not wanting Airbnbs in their neighborhoods.

Shan Canfield said she had 139 lodgers last year at two Airbnb’s she runs in East Nashville. Mostly, she said, these are families or couples in town for music shows, football games or weddings. She said her neighbors never complained.

Canfield said she had only one troublemaker, a well-known entertainer who had drugs. She did not identify the entertainer but said she dealt with the problem.

“I will not rent to this guest again,” Canfield said.

“I’m getting ready to retire this year. Airbnbs enable us to survive until our dying day — assuming our investment doesn’t get interfered with.”

Alece Ronzino runs Airbnbs in East Nashville, and she has done so for two years, all for extra income. There’s never been an incident, she said.
“I won’t allow one bad seed to ruin the whole crop,” Ronzino said.

Alece Ronzino (photo courtesy of Alece Ronzino)
Alece Ronzino, who rents out Airbnb’s
 (photo courtesy of Google)
“I understand that trouble is a possibility, and I don’t doubt it has happened elsewhere in Nashville, but I looked at all the reports that have ever been made to the city, and they are so miniscule compared to the number of people who have stayed in our city via Airbnbs. I’d rather the city find a better way to enforce policies.”

Ronzino said many of her guests only come to Nashville because Airbnbs make the trip affordable. Competing hotel rooms, she said, “charge exorbitant prices.”

Ronzino said some of the people who complain about Airbnbs may have ulterior motives. “It’s racism masked in nicer phrases,” Ronzino said.

My Comment: If racism is a factor, I suspect it is a minor factor. Actually, I hate people playing the race card.  Something is going on however. The passionate opposition to short term rentals is hard to understand. There is a Short Term Rental property across the street from me, one door down, and  on my side of the street there is one two doors down.  I have seen the young girls in town for bachelorette parties coming and going and have seen what look like family groups playing touch football in the front yard.  I have never seen drunken parties, orgies, or been bothered by loud music. I have seen people enjoying themselves as they visit my city.  I have come to believe that some people are just not happy if other people are having fun. I do think there should be reasonable regulation and think it is appropriate that they be registered and pay the hotel-motel tax.  I think those illegally operating should be pursued and made to play by the rules, but  I fully support STRPs.

With the "gig" economy made possible by new technology we are seeing an explosion in consumer choice and job opportunities.  I often use Uber and love it.  Before embracing ride sharing, Nashville tried to ban it. The State unsuccessfully tried to stop a new service that lets someone use a phone app to summon a hairdresser to their home.  At first the city tried to stop Food Trucks from operating in Nashville. Other types of new services have ran into opposition.  Often innovation is met with resistance. People do not like an innovation that brings about new competition for their business model and people are just comfortable with the status quo.

Airbnb and related services seem to be a great way to get to visit and know a new city.  When my wife and I traveled it was before the days of Airbnb, but we often stayed at small pensions off the beaten path.  We did this because we traveled on a limited budget, but also I think we had a more authentic experience than if we would have stayed in a cookie-cutter modern hotel. We had adventures.

Airbnb and related services have become a world-wide phenomena. It has been met with mixed reaction, however. New York city, the center of American capitalism and finance, has banned them while in Havana, in Communist Cuba, they are legal.   I think Nashville should embrace private property rights, technology and innovation and get out of the way. 

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