Chattanooga City Council will consider further restrictions on AirBnb, similar rentals

The Chattanooga City Council will consider restricting non-owner-occupied, short-term vacation rentals to protect the city’s affordable housing stock.

An ordinance introduced Tuesday by Councilwoman Demetrus Coonrod would end the approval of applications for short-term vacation rentals — such as those on Airbnb, VRBO and similar listing sites — not usually occupied by the owner.

According to Coonrod, the legislation is based on a similar restriction in Nashville designed to prevent vacant houses and other issues associated with unoccupied rentals.

« I just really want to put some parameters in place that constituents will feel comfortable with, » Coonrod said, citing complaints from constituents. « They’ll feel safe [in] saying, ‘OK, our neighborhoods are protected. We don’t have blocks just with houses sitting idle, waiting to be rented for short-term vacation rentals.' »

Unlike Nashville’s similar legislation, which restricts by ZIP code, the proposed rule would pertain to the entirety of the Chattanooga Short-Term Vacation Rental Zone, created in 2017.

(READ MORE: Eastdale residents call for Chattanooga City Council to allow short-term vacation rentals in their neighborhood)

Some council members expressed concerns about a broad veto on the permits, including Councilman Jerry Mitchell, who said he saw some value in the restriction as it pertained to preventing the use of multi-family dwellings as short-term rentals. He said he considers them to be like hotels, but he thinks the rule may be too sweeping in its scope.

« I am more than willing to participate in discussion in a couple of weeks, but I am more than hesitant on saying no one else can do it, » Mitchell said.

Coonrod, who specified the City Council would still be able to hear appeals and make exceptions on applications, said the ordinance was about responding to concerns.

« At the end of the day, it’s about making sure that my constituents are getting their concerns addressed, » she said. « I am very supportive of short-term vacation rentals, you know but at the end of the day, I can’t have these units sitting idle, grass overgrown, litter everywhere, when they don’t have tenants in these properties, when they could be used for other sources of housing. »

Under the new rule, existing non-owner-occupied short-term rentals would be allowed to operate, but no new applications for such rentals would be approved after Oct. 30.

The City Council will vote on the first of two readings of the ordinance on Sept. 29.

Contact Sarah Grace Taylor at staylor@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416. Follow her on Twitter @sarahgtaylor.

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