City Council will hear new rules governing city-wide short-term rentals, popularized by apps such as AirBnB, at a meeting Monday night.
The meeting will be the first time Council members publicly discuss a proposed ordinance establishing license requirements, operational standards, and fees for everyday citizens looking to rent rooms in their homes to short-term guests.
“This means that the item will be up for citizen input, discussion, and the possibility of a first reading,” said city spokesperson Chloe Field.
Items require three readings before being ratified and signed by the mayor.
The city’s Planning Commission finalized the ordinance text on Feb. 1 at a standing-room-only meeting packed with Charlestonians hoping to earn extra dough by renting out space in their homes to tourists seeking a cheaper alternative to area hotels.
Short-term rentals are currently illegal in Charleston. The only exception is a commercial overlay zone of the Cannonborough-Elliotborough neighborhood, which sought its own bed and breakfast and short-term rental legislation years ago.
That hasn’t exactly stopped people throughout the city from listing their homes on various apps and websites. City leaders now seem eager to compromise on the virtually unenforced prohibition in hopes of bringing in extra revenue.
“It’s been long enough, the Task Force looked at this for a year, they came up with recommendations, they’ve been before y’all a few times,” Mayor John Tecklenburg said at the Feb. 1 Planning Commission meeting. “Again, I would just ask you to please agree on what you can and send it our way.”
Mayor Tecklenburg and Council members appointed an 18-member Short-Term Rental Task Force in 2016 to begin drafting rules. The Task Force, which first met on Nov. 30, 2016, came up with text that has since been pared-down by the city’s Planning Commission. Most notably, the Commission decided that homes outside of the peninsula’s Old and Historic districts must only be five years old in order to qualify for a license, down from the original 50 years.
The stringent age limit was expected to limit the amount of homes built for the express purpose of serving as de facto motels. However, concerned residents and Planning Commission members from neighborhoods like West Ashley and Daniel Island complained that the rules would prevent homeowners living outside of the peninsula from exercising their rights to use their properties however they want.
The drawn-out process of meetings, drafts, re-writes, and public input has captivated interested homeowners, short-term lobbyists, and preservationists. An abruptly-delayed Planning Commission meeting in December drew ire from some in attendance.
Concerns about gentrification and rising rents have led some cities to regulate the availability of short-term rentals, which often circumvent taxes and fill neighborhoods with visiting strangers.
On Dec. 11, council members in Seattle, Wash. voted to require a license from anyone listing their home for short-term rental, according to The Seattle Times. Seattle City Council had previously passed legislation to tax short-term rental operators $14 a night for whole-house rentals or $8 a night per rented room.
Aside from an application fee, Charleston’s rules do not charge renters per night or per guest. You can read a breakdown of the latest rules here.
City Council will meet to discuss the rules on Mon. Feb. 26 at 5 p.m. at the Dock Street Theatre on 135 Church Street.
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