Mpls and St. Paul officials discuss Airbnb regulations

- The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are both moving closer to enacting new regulations on short-term rentals, like those through the website Airbnb.

Both cities will hold public hearings on the matter in the coming weeks. Under the new regulations, both cities would require hosts to get a license.

The cities are trying to get these regulations in place before the Super Bowl. City officials are trying to balance to emergence of the so-called sharing economy with the need for public safety and fairness for all sides.

Trudy Ohnsorg is an Airbnb super host in St. Paul.

“I have a 5.0 rating,” said Ohnsorg. “I make sure that my guests don't just have a place to stay, they have this welcoming space.”

She started hosting after leaving her job with the state and taking a position as a consultant.

She now heads a local club of home sharers and is well aware of efforts to regulate short-term rentals in St. Paul and Minneapolis.

“Cities want to make sure they're safe, the neighbors are safe and all of that,” said Ohnsorg. “That's fine. And I'm also not opposed to the city collecting some tax. So we're working with them to make sure what gets put in place is fair.”

The Minnesota Lodging Association is also following the developments closely. Executive Vice President Dan McElroy makes a distinction with those renting their homes from time to time with those who turn short-term renting into a full-time business.

“We're particularly not at all opposed to the real sharing economy, where people are owner-occupied,” said McElroy. “And if there is a place for the commercial operations, it should be on a level playing field basis, it shouldn't be unlicensed hotels in a residential district.”

It's those competing interests Minneapolis city council member and mayoral candidate Jacob Frey is trying to balance. The council will consider his legislation in the coming weeks.

Like St. Paul's proposal, the Minneapolis proposal includes a requirement that hosts on Airbnb and other sites get a license before they can rent out rooms.

“So this is a bit of regulation to make sure people are safe, but not so much that it strangles a fast, growing business,” said Frey.

Ohnsorg hopes regulation doesn't take away what makes Airbnb unique.

“It's not transactional, it’s transformational,” she said.

The St. Paul City Council holds a public hearing on its proposed ordinance next Wednesday while the Minneapolis Council's Community Engagement Committee holds a hearing in two weeks.

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