City embraces short-term rentals in hospitality lodging

single-meta-cal April 26, 2018

It could merely be a fold-out sofa in a cozy bungalow. It could be a six-bedroom home with opulent décor.

They’re both options for travelers looking for an alternative from traditional lodging. They’re financial opportunities for local investors and those with a gift for hospitality.

The short-term rental market is growing at an 11 percent rate, nearly twice that of the traditional marketplace, according to a study by Phocuswright. There are currently more than 225 such listings in the Huntsville area, though some may be redundant from one listing site to another.

Huntsville’s tourism market continues to expand, and our short-term rentals provide another lodging option for our guests.”

The market is personified by the 10-year-old Airbnb, through which more than 80 percent of Huntsville’s private accommodations are made available, and other entities such as Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) and its partner, HomeAway.

“We welcome these short-term rentals to our lodging options,” said Mayor Tommy Battle.

Battle directed his administration to research short-term rentals and recommend a path forward. Leading the process is City Manager of Planning Services, Jim McGuffey, who says his team is excited about the popular lodging option.

They found that the existing zoning ordinances do provide the appropriate regulations to accommodate the industry’s needs, but the City did not have an existing business license category for these operators.  That proved to be an easy fix.

At the April 26 City Council Meeting, Clerk-Treasurer Ken Benion presented a simple amendment to the lodging business license ordinance creating the necessary category that will accommodate short-term rentals. Council unanimously approved the new plan.

The action item will allow short-term home rentals to:

  • Obtain a business license through the City of Huntsville.
  • Collect lodging tax, as traditional hotels and motels do, which helps to fund tourism projects such as the VBC expansion.

“Huntsville’s tourism market continues to expand, and our short-term rentals provide another lodging option for our guests,” said Battle. “We’re pleased this administration can help make that happen.”