Airbnb Hosts Fear Restrictions in Region's Tourist Center

Could a growing national trend be stifled by regulation in St. Louis?

Michael Calhoun
February 07, 2019 - 5:51 am

An Airbnb supporter waits his turn to speak at a City of Miami commission meeting discussing Airbnb on Thursday, March 23, 2017. Miami Beach is considering new measures to fight illegal short-term rentals on the island. (Photo by C.M. Guerrero/Miami Herald/TNS/Sipa USA)

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) -- Airbnb hosts are organizing themselves against what they fear will be unfair regulation coming from City Hall.

The hosts met Wednesday to share fears that the city may, for instance, bar renters from home sharing at all, require a thousand-dollar licensing fee, and mandate waiting for a city inspection.

Alex Zemianek, a local host, suggests aldermen look at popular places like Austin and Denver and "borrow some of the ideas that the other cities have been through."

A lot of the places where Airbnb has fought big legal battles, like San Francisco and New York City, have faced different issues than here.

"Those are cities that have problems where normal people can't find homes to live. Those are high-density areas," says local host Greg Elder. "Fortunately or unfortunately, we don't have that problem in St. Louis. We have a problem with a lot of abandoned houses and a lot of abandoned neighborhoods."

Elder says local hosts are picking what he calls neighborhood ambassadors, "so that there is a person for the aldermen to talk to. So if there's an issue, the neighbors can talk to them. These people will go to the neighborhood meetings."

Zemianek says: "If there are legitimate complaints, we actually want to help people self-regulate."

Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia says her original bill might've been too tough, but she does believe Airbnb offerings should be subject to "basic regulations."

Ingrassia says while she'd like to "level the playing field" for traditional hotels, she doesn't see short-term rentals as a problem in St. Louis right now.

"The rush to regulation, I have to assume, is a rush to tax us more," Elder says.

Zemianek explains the appeal to him of staying in a home or apartment while away.

"My wife and I, when we travel, we still enjoy the hotel stay," he says, but "the second we're bringing my four year son and my two-year old daughter? That's the whole point of the industry."'

Others might cite the proximity to restaurants and neighborhoods as benefit of staying in an apartment while visiting St. Louis. Services like Airbnb and Home Away also tout the hospitality of their hosts.

In January 2018, Airbnb reached an agreement with the state of Missouri to automatically collect taxes from travelers and submit them.  St. Louis was slated to begin collecting them December 1st, 2018.