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St. Louis cities and towns wrestle with Airbnb and other online rental options

Many homeowners are using services like Airbnb to make some extra cash, while the option is becoming more popular among travelers
David Kovaluk | St. Louis Public Radio
Many homeowners are using services like Airbnb to make some extra cash, while the option is becoming more popular among travelers

The internet economy is a new challenge for communities throughout the region - how to deal with online home and room rental companies like Airbnb. For some property owners, listing vacancies online is an attractive way to make a buck or two. But several cities and towns are worried about the impact that attracting strangers will have on neighborhoods. 

That is why the Municipal League of Greater St. Louis has been trying to have a uniform set of guidelines passed at the state level. But so far, the effort has not been successful.

Pat Kelly is the organization's executive director. He recently spoke about how the league is approaching emerging companies like Airbnb.

On potential state legislation

The league had been working with the industry over the past couple of years in Jefferson City to establish a blanket set of regulations, but that is not expected to happen in 2018, Kelly said. "What they are doing is working municipality by municipality," to establish standards in areas where the services are used the most.

Why the League prefers a uniform approach

It's so communities have an understanding of policies and standards that could be needed. "You want to be able to protect the rights of the people who live next store," Kelly said, "as well as protecting the rights of the people who want to utilize the service." A blanket set of guidelines would also make sure businesses collect fees that would be reimbursed back to the city to help cover costs dealing with license and inspections. That is not being done at this point.

Where is the opposition coming from?

From the league's perspective, the legislative efforts over the past couple of years focused on giving towns and cities more say over regulating the businesses. "We just wanted some controls in place and have that ability to retain location control," Kelly said. The area around Lake of the Ozarks produced the most opposition. "I don't think they wanted to pay the fees, or they didn't want to have those regulations and oversight in that general area." Tourism is a key part of the economy in that part of the state.

Some communities in the St. Louis area have already taken matters into their own hands. Ladue, Chesterfield and Hazelwood have said no to the home-sharing market. Others, like Maplewood, are allowing residents to rent out homes or rooms with some restrictions.

Follow Wayne on Twitter: @WayneRadio

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.