Short-term rental owners in Albemarle Co. want less restrictions

Airbnb owners want supervisors to loosen regulations
Updated: Nov. 19, 2019 at 4:26 PM EST
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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, V.A. (WVIR) - Neighbors in Albemarle County who have been renting out part of their homes or property as a homestay or Airbnb are having a tougher time doing it.

It took the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors two years to regulate short-term homestays. Many say the county’s new regulations are some of the most restrictive in the area.

Now, those renting out their homes say supervisors should be spending time loosening those regulations.

The rules prohibit people from renting out accessory structures unless they apply for a special exception permit. That permit costs hundreds of dollars and officials emphasize it's for special exceptions only.

“We just don't see a lot of justification for the very restrictive regulations that they just passed,” said Airbnb owner Shawn Bird.

The county’s policies differ based on zoning, with rural areas over five acres having the most flexibility. In residential areas like Bird’s, only two bedrooms can be rented and the owner must be present at all times.

“If anyone has ever done an Airbnb, most people don't rent homes or spaces when the owner is also there, it changes the whole dynamic and feel to it,” Bird said.

County supervisors say these rules were made with good intentions.

“That was the No. 1 overarching issue is just demolishing the housing stock and this has been found in other places which are a great high appeal, and it's contributed to the real distress that people have trying to find a place which they can afford to live,” said Albemarle County Supervisor Ann Mallek.

Bird and his wife rented out their Airbnb for about $125/night, but now that money is no longer coming in.

“There are families who really depend on this money, both to get their kid through college and making ends meet. It's a great source of supplemental income…but for some families, it's really critical,” Bird said.

A number of other requirement include having off-street parking and requiring the owner to live in the home for at least six months out of the year.

“It's obviously something which is a balance and we just want to make sure that impacts are fair to the people who live around as well as the people who want to operate these things,” Mallek said.

The county will be taking feedback from community members on the subject in the spring.

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