Council members in Kansas City, Missouri, voted to ban short-term rentals in certain residential areas and regulate them in other parts of the city Thursday afternoon.
“The city wants to say it welcomes tech and innovation,” Patrick Tuohey, municipal director of policy at the Show-Me Institute, says. “But many opportunities it has to actually embrace a new technology, it actually chooses not to.”
The proposal grandfathers Airbnb-type rentals in low-density residential zones, though they’ve technically been illegal in the city since 2011. The new regulations legalize short-term rentals in higher-density neighborhoods and create different rules for owner-occupant rentals and those owned by people who live elsewhere.
Owners are required to register their listings with the city and pay a one-time fee of $259 and annual fees of $175. Violators can be fined up to $200 and be jailed for up to 10 days.
Tuohey called the city’s regulations “Uber part 2.” In 2015, KCMO passed an ordinance forcing ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft to require driver background checks and the same kind of insurance taxi companies have. The ordinance also required individual drivers to pay a fee to the city. Lyft closed shop in KCMO for a few years. It’s back in business now, thanks to the Missouri Legislature, which passed less stringent statewide ride-share regulations last year.
Council members worried during Thursday’s meeting that their regulations could be preempted by home-sharing legislation in the Missouri Legislature. Council member Scott Taylor said the council should not worry about what might happen in Jefferson City.
“We have our own citizens to be concerned with,” he said.
Last year legislation for statewide home-sharing regulations failed, in part, Tuohey says, because supporters opposed terminology that would’ve allowed reasonable regulation at the city level.
“They decided they don’t even want to give the cities that much leeway,” he says.
Officials estimate there are approximately 800 short-term rentals in Kansas City. More than 75,000 guests booked Airbnb rentals in Kansas City last year, and that’s likely a drop in the bucket compared to the number of bookings in tourist heavy Branson and the Ozarks.
Now home-sharing rentals are allowed in some single family residential areas, but not others. That could prompt a homeowner in an area where they’re banned to sue.
“They’re kind of artificial boundaries. If the city tries to allow for one and not the other, that will not stand in court,” Tuohey says.
Steve Mitchell and his wife, Barbara, legally operate a short-term rental, a carriage house on their Hyde Park property. Mitchell is a real estate attorney, and he sought a certificate of legal non-conformance several years ago.
The new law splits the baby, banning new rentals in certain single family residential areas while allowing it in others, like Hyde Park, communities near the Plaza, and Brookside, according to Mitchell. Most of the areas prohibited from adding short-term rentals are more suburban.
“To me, it is totally illogical and illegal under Missouri zoning laws to do that,” Mitchell says.
Politics may have played a role in the decision to ban the practice in some residential zones and maintain it in others. About half of the 13-member council is considering a run for Mayor, and the bulk of the complaints about short-term rentals came from more suburban parts of the city.
“What you have is people in south Kansas City that are afraid that Airbnb is going to turn their community into tenements or boarding houses,” Tuohey says. “The research shows that’s not true at all. In fact, Airbnb increases property values of the whole community.”
Diane Binckley, KCMO deputy director of city and development told Startland News, officials looked to balance the rights of property owners and their neighbors. Tuohey submitted a sunshine request and learned there have been very few complaints about home-shares.
The city tallied a total 68 complaints about short-term rentals over the last three years. The majority of those, 54, were simply neighbors notifying officials that they thought a neighboring home may be operating as a short-term rental.
“They weren’t substantive complaints about noise or parking or anything like that,” he says.