During its meeting Monday night, the City of Madison’s plan commission advanced an ordinance that would impose stricter regulations on short-term tourist rentals like Airbnb operations.
The City first created regulations for these operations in 2013 to prevent out-of-town owners from turning Madison’s affordable housing stock into “party houses.”
But, City of Madison Zoning Administrator Matt Tucker says city staff has struggled to enforce those regulations.
“It’s a very challenging ordinance to enforce because there’s no one point of contact,” Tucker says.
“The original idea back in 2013 was to allow a party to operate, meet the health license requirements [with Public Health Madison & Dane County], report their room tax and remit it [to the City Treasurer], and comply with the zoning. What we’ve found is many cases of non-compliance, and very difficult conditions of attempting to enforce that.”
Tucker also says the City struggles to prove that operators of “party houses” do or do not live at the home. But, the proposed ordinance would require hosts to obtain a signed legal document confirming the house is their primary residence.
Opponents of the ordinance, like Airbnb host Andrew Stendahl, take issue with its “one size fits all” approach to regulating hosts.
“When people ask me about this, I sum it up as two people driving cars. Somebody pays their license plate fees, they’re driving with their tags, [and] the other people aren’t,” Stendahl says. “By putting more hoops and restrictions on the people who are compliant to try and catch the people that aren’t compliant, that doesn’t solve the problem.”
Stendahl also says that bad actors will still find a way around regulations while hosts who are already licensed will have to jump through additional hoops.
“I don’t think [this issue] is going anywhere. If you shut this down, they’re going to start renting out on Craigslist or Couchsurfing, or they’re going to come up with a new platform to do it. So, let’s work together on this…All we’re asking is to just be part of the process,” Stendahl says.
Other critics, like Peter Taglia, say they are open to stricter regulations on party houses, but are frustrated that they weren’t consulted when the ordinance was drafted.
“This very meeting I think is emblematic of a flawed process. Good public policy requires stakeholder engagement,” Taglia says. “I’ve been here, I’ve seen a lot of these meetings to date, I’ve seen the planning department do things and talk about things, even today, about how you have stakeholder groups. This didn’t have one.”
Alder Marsha Rummel, who sponsored the ordinance, pushed back against the claim that stakeholders weren’t involved at all.
“What we did is present an amendment and have a process. So, this is our process,” Rummel says. “[We’re] having these public hearings where you’re all invited to tell us your stories, what works and what doesn’t work, and we’re trying to listen.”
Alders Rummel and Patrick Heck, who also sponsored the ordinance, said they took time to hear from their constituents about this issue.
The ordinance now goes before the full city council, which could vote on the proposal during its meeting next week.
If the ordinance passes, it will take effect on April 15th, and would require all hosts to be permitted by July 1st.