Make The Benefits Of Short Term Vacation Rentals Available To All Chattanooga Neighborhoods

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

To the Members of the Chattanooga City Council:

I write to you today to thank you for your careful and deliberate consideration of short-term vacation rentals, and to offer any help we can provide in your regulatory process. Airbnb was created out of the economic dislocation of the Great Recession and is powered by everyday people who use what is typically their greatest expense -- their homes -- as a way to generate extra income.

In 2016, Airbnb had less than 300 active hosts in Chattanooga. These hosts typically earned $5,300, helping to pay for things like their mortgage, student loans or saving for retirement. Most hosts in Chattanooga are female, and a quarter of our hosts are over the age of 50, often empty-nesters who are sharing an extra room in their home. A typical host only shares his or her home for 45 nights per year.

Short-term vacation rentals are not only an economic lifeline for hosts, but also a source of opportunity for Chattanooga’s small businesses. Last year, Airbnb hosts welcomed 24,000 guests to Chattanooga. These guests typically spend twice as much money and stay twice as long as guests in traditional accommodations. And, they spend most of this money in the neighborhoods where they stay, distributing the economic benefits of tourism to communities in Chattanooga that haven’t typically benefited.

Our community is built on trust, and we work hard to ensure that Airbnb is safe for hosts, guests and their communities. We’ve developed a number of key features that help to build this trust, including background checks, behavior analysis technology, a real-time risk detection system, and by providing ways for users to learn more about each other through publicly available reviews and feedback. If something does occur, our global Trust and Safety team is on call to help 24/7.

We want to work with Chattanooga to create a regulatory structure for short-term vacation rentals that is practical, enforceable and responsive to the community’s needs. Indeed, we believe that Councilman Henderson’s proposal makes great headway to do just that. We applaud him for creating rules that are clear and easy to follow, with a simple registration process. 

However, the creation of a short-term vacation rental district gives us pause. We are concerned that it would be difficult to implement, and could prevent Chattanooga from realizing one of the largest benefits of home sharing: the distribution of tourism dollars throughout all of Chattanooga’s neighborhoods. We hope that in the near future, this short-term vacation rental district will be expanded to the entire city.

Thank you again for your careful consideration of these issues. We look forward to working with you to ensure that Chattanooga reaps the full economic and social benefits of home sharing.

Laura Spanjian

Midwest Policy Director Airbnb 

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