Athens, Ohio Lawmakers, Residents Debate Airbnb Regulations

Published April 18, 2016

Lawmakers in Athens, Ohio are considering increasing regulations on Airbnb and other peer-to-peer, short-term rental services in the city.

In November 2015, the city began cracking down on peer-to-peer economy businesses, well before lawmakers proposed any new regulations. Days after speaking at a November 16 city council meeting, a resident received a warning he could be charged with a misdemeanor crime and fined $500 for every day he fails to receive government permission to receive money in exchange for guests’ use of his property.

Athens zoning rules prevent individuals from registering as owner-occupied guest accommodations unless they live in designated tourist areas of the city. City lawmakers say restricting Airbnb is necessary to protect the safety of residents and individuals visiting Athens.

In February, Athens lawmakers tabled the proposed regulations to allow for additional debate and public input

Challenging the Establishment

Alex Goodman, state director for the Ohio chapter of Generation Opportunity, a national nonprofit organization promoting economic opportunity and prosperity, says Athens lawmakers are working to protect existing business owners, such as hotel owners, at the expense of residents’ economic freedom and property rights.

“Like any technology, sharing-economy applications challenge the established economy and create new opportunities,” Goodman said. “Reacting with excessive and unfair regulation makes the ability to start and run your own business even harder, increasing costs of what we buy, limiting choices, and stifling job prospects. Excessive regulations make it more difficult for new competitors to enter the market and get in the way of entrepreneurs bringing new products to consumers.”

Local Overregulation

Greg Lawson, a policy analyst for the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, says Ohio lawmakers should set statewide rules for Airbnb and similar peer-to-peer businesses, instead of allowing the creation of a patchwork of uneven playing fields.

“Local regulation will significantly harm Airbnb,” Lawson said. “If every city in Ohio comes up with their own red tape, it will make it very difficult for Airbnb and potential Airbnb users to operate.”

Local Protectionism

Lawson says restrictions on peer-to-peer businesses are promoted heavily by entrenched market players concerned about the loss of their monopolies or large market shares.

“While there are probably some local officials concerned about safety out of a paternalistic instinct, much of what local governments are doing are merely helping protect already existing businesses,” Lawson said. “Obviously, taxi companies are very worried about Uber and Lyft. The hotel industry shares similar worries about Airbnb. They don’t want the competition and often try to use local government powers to make life more difficult for start-ups, thus preserving their present market position.”

Matt Hurley ([email protected]) writes from Cincinnati, Ohio.

Internet Info:

Dâvid Neeser, et al., “Does Airbnb Hurt Hotel Business: Evidence from the Nordic Countries,” Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, September 25, 2015: