Lawmakers in Asheville, North Carolina are cracking down on Airbnb, a popular peer-to-peer economy short-term rental service for travelers, voting to increase fines on Airbnb hosts found violating the city’s existing ban.
The city is also increasing efforts to find Airbnb hosts violating the city’s ban, adding a full-time employee to search for and investigate Airbnb rentals in the city.
Michael Lowrey, a policy analyst with the John Locke Foundation, says lawmakers’ crusade against Airbnb was spurred by unrelated concerns over housing costs.
“The issue of affordable housing started to crop up in Asheville,” Lowrey said. “Then Airbnb came up, and it gets thrown into the affordable housing issue. They are concerned that people making modest incomes cannot afford housing in Asheville.”
Solving the Wrong Problem
Instead of banning Airbnb, Lowrey says lawmakers should consider relaxing land-use regulations to encourage construction in the city.
“If they need more housing at lower prices, their best bet would be to look into deregulating some of the other zoning aspects to make it easier to build housing,” Lowrey said. “I don’t think there is in any sense a one-to-one substitution.”
‘Interference with People’s Rights’
Northwestern University law professor John McGuinness says Asheville lawmakers’ war on Airbnb is a misguided attack against property rights.
“It’s disturbing, because it’s an interference with people’s rights to do with their property as they see fit,” McGuinness said. “I don’t see this as a substantial problem that can’t be dealt with, with respect to other rules that address spillover effects on their neighbors. If someone is causing too much noise or other activities that interfere with the peaceful enjoyment of your property, there are already rules against that.”
McGuinness says Airbnb provides economic benefits to lower-income travelers and hosts alike.
“This is a real strike against helping two kinds of people who may be less well-off: people who want to travel to Asheville who don’t want to pay the generally higher prices for a hotel and those who want to rent out their home,” McGuinness said. “Without real evidence of harm, you’re preventing people from using their property as they want. It hurts people of more modest incomes, both consumers and people who might want to rent out a portion of their home.”
Kimberly Morin ([email protected]) writes from Brentwood, New Hampshire.
Sofia Ranchordas, “Innovation-Friendly Regulation: The Sunset of Regulation, the Sunrise of Innovation,” Jurimetrics: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/innovation-friendly-regulation-sunset-regulation-sunrise-innovation/