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First 2020 legislation aimed at allowing regulation of Airbnb

By: - November 15, 2019 1:52 pm

Rep. Isela Blanc, D-Tempe, holds up a copy of House Bill 2001 at a press conference. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

***UPDATED to include comments from Airbnb and VRBO

A bill proposed by state lawmakers Friday would repeal a law put in place in 2016 that prohibits cities and towns from regulating short-term rental properties popularized by companies like Airbnb and VBRO. 

That law prohibits cities from enacting their own ordinances or rules surrounding short-term rentals, except to regulate noise and parking. 

Now, House Bill 2001 aims to repeal the 2016 law and give cities and towns the ability to regulate short-term rental properties. Lawmakers will be able to take up the measure when they return to work in January.

Gov. Doug Ducey during a ceremonial signing of the bill in 2016 touted the measure, stating it would allow homeowners to earn extra cash and keep government out of the way of entrepreneurs. 

However, Ducey said this past August that lawmakers will “revisit” short-term rental regulations in the upcoming session. 

“They can’t be more wrong on this,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak told Arizona Mirror, adding that the 2016 legislation provided economic opportunity across the state. “As we’ve demonstrated, we are always open to improvements, but we’re not going to take away the ability of average Arizonans to make common-sense decisions about their own property.”

The bill’s supporters said they don’t want to take anything away from homeowners, but simply want to give local governments the ability to determine how – and to what extent – short-term rentals play a role in their community. 

“We are not asking for anything, we are not asking for Airbnb to be regulated,” Tempe Democratic Rep. Isela Blanc, the bill’s sponsor, said at a press conference. “We don’t think it’s a big ask.” 

Airbnb and Expedia Group, which owns VRBO, released a joint statement in response to Blanc’s bill, saying that the 2016 law has “advanced innovation, protected neighborhoods, promoted tourism, contributed millions to local economies, and aided tax revenue collection.” 

“That leadership should be supported, sustained and emulated; not reversed,” the statement went on to say.

Some communities say they feel besieged by the number of short-term rentals. For instance, Sedona City Manager Justin Clifton told The Arizona Republic that nearly 20 percent of the city’s total housing inventory belongs to short-term rentals. The Valley has also experienced issues, such as a Tempe Airbnb that was the scene of a party forced the homeowner to pick up the pieces

“The truth of the matter is, I don’t think anybody foresaw this,” Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Phoenix and a co-sponsor of the bill, said. “We are dealing with the simple fact of unintended consequences.” 

Arizona is one of six states that have enacted local bans on short-term rental regulations. The other states are along with Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Earlier this year, lawmakers passed some regulation on short-term rentals that aimed to address the issue of “party houses.” That is something that even AirBnB itself has stepped in to try to reign in recently. 

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, sponsored the bill, which imposed new requirements on short-term rental property owners and added on new penalties if they didn’t comply. 

Kavanagh was a state senator at the time of SB1350 and was the only senator to vote no. 

“I would love to see it repealed, but I’m also a realist,” he told the Mirror, adding that if Blanc’s bill does pass, he believes that Ducey will likely veto it. 

“While I’m sympathetic, I’m going to concentrate on less drastic remedies,” Kavanagh said, adding that he is working on drafting legislation that would “reduce the footprint” of short-term rentals by creating occupancy limits, limiting street parking and other measures. 

“Everybody knows that local control is a euphamism for the death penalty,” Kavanagh said, referring to a belief that many cities would follow in the footsteps of cities like Honolulu, which have banned short-term rentals. “We gotta find that sweet spot in the middle.” 

However, Blanc and Lieberman said that the “party house” bill that Kavanagh got passed earlier this year was not enough, and that each individual community should be able to decide how to regulate short-term rental properties. 

“Clearly, the bill we did last time didn’t fix the problem,” Lieberman said, adding that he also believes that the repeal measure will have bi-partisan support. 

In Blanc’s legislative district, 57% of the available short-term rentals are listed on AirBnB, according to data gathered by AirDNA.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.