Although St. Louis Airbnb hosts brought in more revenue and more guests than anywhere else in the state last year, some are worried a proposed city bill could hurt business.
A group called the Saint Louis Metro Airbnb Hosts has formed to oppose new regulations introduced in the Board of Aldermen in December.
The bill, sponsored by Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, D-Ward 6, would limit short-term rentals to 30 days per stay and 120 total days a year. The proposal also calls for annual city inspections and for violators to receive a maximum $500 fine, up to 90-days in jail, or both.
The measure is still waiting for a hearing from the Public Safety Committee, but Ingrassia told St. Louis Public Radio she expects it to move forward this spring after the board’s recess. She did not respond to further questions.
In the meantime, Saint Louis Metro Airbnb Hosts is recruiting Airbnb hosts to serve as advocates in neighborhoods throughout St. Louis, said Greg Elder, one of its leaders. The representatives will attend neighborhood association meetings, interact with policymakers and hold hosts in their areas accountable.
“If anyone has an issue with an Airbnb property, they can contact that person,” Elder said. “Also, we will be reaching out to all posts and asking them to join our group, so we can share with them our good standards and good practices.”
The idea, Elder said, is to show elected officials they can self-regulate themselves.
Airbnb Midwest spokesman Brian Breit said there are around 900 Airbnb hosts operating in St. Louis, not including those who use the service seasonally. Last month, Airbnb announced that Missouri hosts had earned a combined $48 million in supplemental income in 2018. The company said that Missouri-based Airbnb hosts had also brought 483,000 guests to the state last year.
St. Louis was the top earner, contributing 30 percent in total host income in 2018 according to Airbnb’s announcement. The Gateway City brought in the most guests, too, with 144,000, the release said.
Some hosts say the proposed rental limits would make it difficult to survive.
Airbnb host Ivan Wine rents two rooms in his house. It’s his only source of income during a dry spell of freelance work. He says he would be worried about using up the 120-day limit for one year in “a couple of months.”
“I’d only be able to rent like two days, here and there, a month,” he said. “Yeah, it would not work. I wouldn’t be able to do this. Airbnb would not be a viable option.”
He said his multiple sclerosis would make it tough to take on an advocate position with the Saint Louis Metro Airbnb Hosts. But he said he has emailed one of the bill's co-sponsors with his concerns.
“Working from home is my only real viable option," he said. "So one of the things that concerns me with the whole legislation is that I would no longer be able to independently take care of my bills."
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