Airbnb bill would result in overflow of short term rentals in our cities | Opinion

Senator Stephen West’s bill, Senate Bill 234, is anti-neighborhood legislation that favors short term rental properties (STRs) and real estate speculators over homeowners and long-term renters. It would permit a non-owner, like a contracted management company with a lease, to operate a short term rental in any zone that permits residential uses. It further would prevent a local government from passing, interpreting, or enforcing any ordinance that unreasonably restricts short term rentals of property.

What does that mean? First it means that your neighborhood could be overrun with short term rental properties and displace residents. Shouldn’t local governments be able to set limits on the density of STRs in residential areas? Would you rather have actual neighbors or transient renters who come for a couple of days only to be replaced with new transient renters? Lexington already has neighborhoods that have reached a tipping point and have become noticeably less residential. Would you like a management company to determine the number of transient renters who can stay in a short term rental to maximize profit rather than your local government? Lexington already has STRs with occupancy approaching twenty (20) per rental property. Should the State of Kentucky through the Kentucky General Assembly be issuing mandates to local governments as to what they can and cannot do in the area of land use within neighborhoods? The bill is not about larger cities only and would impact Versailles, Nicholasville, Danville, Richmond, Paris, Cynthiana, Morehead, Maysville and any number of smaller cities and towns. Rural areas also have STRs.

The bill would limit a permitting fee to $150 for the first permit only. Thereafter, a local government “shall not charge a permit fee for the renewal of a permit including the renewal of a permit that has expired.” Local taxpayers would have to pay administrative and enforcement costs to have STRs next door. The permit fee would not be nearly enough to cover all local government costs even during the first year.

SB 234 would require “three (3) or more citations for ordinance violations issued to an owner” for a local government to consider revoking an STR permit. “Owners” (not necessarily real owners) almost always will not be present so will never receive a citation. A citation generally requires a court case. It’s doubtful that the Lexington Police Department issued citations at the STR shooting that occurred in Lexington in 2023 because they may not have been able to identify the shooters. In my own neighborhood, next door neighbors experienced a loud party with drunken behavior until 3:00 a.m. when the police arrived to break up the party. The owner of the property at the time, who did not live there, ultimately called police after a number of citizen complaints. The police break up parties but hardly issue citations. The three or more citation requirement would very much limit or prevent any revocation of permits.

Establishing small hotels in neighborhoods ultimately removes residential properties from neighborhoods, and the resulting decline in the supply of houses increases the cost of housing. The increased cost of housing then pushes people into surrounding counties where housing costs also increase and pressures rural areas out of existence. That is not a future that has meaningful public support. The Fayette County Neighborhood Council urges the defeat of SB 234.

Walt Gaffield
Walt Gaffield

Walt Gaffield, is President of the Fayette County Neighborhood Council, Inc.