A new proposal in front of the Mobile City Council targeting Airbnb rentals inside the city limits isn’t about fairness or about generating revenue for the city, rather it’s about shutting down disruptive competition in the short-term rental market in the city. Councilwoman Gina Gregory has introduced an ordinance that would put onerous regulations on operators of Airbnb short-term rental homes in Mobile that would effectively price them out of the market, creating a monopoly for city sanctioned short-term rental properties like hotels and bed and breakfasts.
Some of the regulations that Councilwoman Gregory has proposed include getting an annual business license, passing regular inspections from city inspectors, and carrying a million dollar policy on their homes to cover the property. This ordinance was drafted without any input from the company Airbnb, or any Airbnb property operators within the city limits of Mobile. No Airbnb property owner is going to want to go through those onerous regulations just to generate a couple extra hundred bucks a month renting out their home when they happen to be away. The only thing this set of regulations is going to do is going to decrease the amount of available of short-term rentals in Mobile, especially during high profile events that attract lots of tourists and travelers to Mobile, like Mardi Gras, and when the cruise ship comes into port. This will ultimately drive up the prices of hotel rooms and bed and breakfast reservations in Mobile because of the limited capacity to serve the needs of those travelers.
The Mobile City Council should table this ordinance and send it to the proper committee for consideration. This will allow Mobile mayor Sandy Stimpson and his administration to reach out to Airbnb, and property owners in the city, as well as representatives from area hotels and bed and breakfasts to all come to the table and come up with creative solutions that is fair for everybody that promotes competition and fair play at the same time. The city of Mobile did this with Uber and Lyft when they came to town and they were welcomed with great fanfare and much success. Much to the chagrin of the current operators of taxis and other transportation services in the city but that’s the way markets that let capitalism do what it does best are supposed to work.
For the city of Mobile to achieve the mayor’s goal of being the most business friendly, family friendly, and safest city in America, a collaborative approach that meets the needs of everybody involved is the best way forward on this matter. The city of Mobile does not need to become known as the city that shuts down the enterprising young entrepreneur that cuts the grass of four or five of his neighbors to earn money to buy video games, or the city that sends its police to shut down a neighborhood girl’s lemonade stand because Uncle Gov has not gotten his vig yet. The concerns that councilwoman Gregory has raised are legitimate, but there’s much more discussion from all of the stakeholders that needs to be had before the City Council hastily enacts bad regulations that’s only going to hurt competition, raise prices, and hurt the traveling consumer that the city needs to be able to recover from the Coronavirus pandemic and its economic damage.