Burkley Allen

By Clint Confehr

 

NASHVILLE, TN — Changing rules on short-term lodging in residential properties raises existential issues in Nashville. Protecting neighborhoods is one thing. Discrimination is another.

Asked about discrimination by short- term stay hosts, Metro Councilwoman Burkley Allen — she wants a moratorium on new commercial short-term lodging — said if racism is alleged, it’s something “we’d certainly need to deal with. It’s not… in the proposed amendment, but… Nashville’s worked to be welcoming and open.”

Web-based short-term lodging is best known as Airbnb, but there are competitors, including Noirbnb.

Allen’s amendment addresses “investor-owned B&Bs, those not occupied by the owner” because of neighbor complaints, Allen said. “We don’t interact between the guest and the [host, but] we are slowly developing relationships …so we can report violations of certain things…

“In theory,” she said, web-based booking services “are willing to remove people [de-list hosts] …for discrimination in a way that can be documented.”

Examples might include what was realized by a Tennessee couple’s daughter renting a room in her New Orleans home. A woman contacted Eleanna Parks by smart phone. Parks wasn’t home, described her schedule, and the woman replied four other Airbnbs said the same thing. The women talked. Parks changed her schedule. They enjoyed discussing race at Parks’ Airbnb. Parks regrets her guest’s experience prior to staying with her; “New Orleans is such a gumbo city.”

To list units on Airbnb, hosts must “agree to treat everyone in the Airbnb community—regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.”

In Atlanta for a 2015 music festival, Stefan Grant and friends stayed at an Airbnb. Neighbors “assumed we were robbing the place.” It was “hectic” when police arrived, but soon Grant and friends were posting photos of an officer’s  “good side” on social media. It went viral. Now, Grant runs his Noirbnb that’s “not tolerant of discrimination.” Whites ask if they can stay. “You’re fine,” replies Grant who moved to South Florida from Maryland and may take Noirbnb international. Grant was approached by Airbnb to merge with the larger web-based booking agency. At last word, Grant said he’d run his own.

B&B host Diane Sable of Memphis’ Cooper-Young area says neighborhood associations should control B&Bs. Some condo-owners associations decide if units may be short term rentals. Investors buy 8-10 houses in a neighborhood. Web-based rental rates undercut hotels’, scaring hotel owners. “The Exchange” apartment building took section 8 rent vouchers, was converted to a boutique hotel with apartments rented as short-term stays sublet by tenants who have agents greeting guests.

“I’m sure there’s racism,” Sable said of on-line bookings.

She regrets the loss of subsidized rent housing.

A house owned by The Tennessee Tribune is listed by Evolve Vacation Rental Network, a marketing partner of Airbnb. It’s within the Meharry Medical College cluster. Tribune Publisher Rosetta Miller Perry said a picture of the house is on the website. She’s never had an African American inquire about the Tribune’s property and yet it stays fully booked.

One problem was that white restaurants in the “It City” wouldn’t deliver to the Meharry Cluster, Miller Perry said.

Since Uber’s CEO quit Trump’s economic council, Tribune clients are referred to Uber’s delivery service. The Tribune is part of the Evolve Vacation Rental Network and listed for more upscale and international clients.

“With the economy the way it is, this is a great opportunity — for people who are retired and young people who recently purchased homes — to seek extra income,” Miller Perry said. If businesses can build large apartment complexes which become Airbnbs, individuals should be able to rent houses as Airbnbs Miller Perry said. Allen’s moratorium on new short-term stays that are not occupied by owners may take effect after a third vote Feb. 21. A successful second vote was anticipated Feb. 7.

Zillow reports housing experts say “Airbnbs” are a small part of housing stock and “have no meaningful” impact on housing availability or affordability, a spokesman said, citing a new report, adding that Airbnbs here: add $477 million in total economic activity; are less than one percent of the housing market, and; generate economic activity supporting 5,400 local jobs.

We do not permit any parties or loud activities and we sympathize with those communities who have to endure such.  It is unfair to those homeowners and disrespectful for disrupting the lives of those neighborhoods and we do agree that something should be done.  If you purchase a $450,000 home in a quiet neighborhood and the next year the house next door becomes an AirBnB, this is not justice for that family or that community.

Clint Confehr

Clint Confehr — an American journalist since 1972 — first wrote for The Tennessee Tribune in 1999. His news writing and photography in South Central Tennessee and the Nashville Metropolitan Statistical...