HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — A bill long in the making protecting Airbnb-style rentals is a step closer to becoming law. But it’s not without some strong opposition.
The fight over the legislation has been going on for more than a year and a half now since it was introduced last April. It narrowly passed the Michigan House by a vote of 55-47 in October of 2021.
This past week, a state Senate panel advanced the bill. Now, it’s finally headed to the full Senate for a vote expected sometime after the November election.
The legislation, HB 4722, would prevent local governments from passing or enforcing rules that block Airbnbs or restrict them to certain areas.
Local leaders in areas including Grand Haven and Holland have spoken out against the proposal.
“My community is very concerned about it,” Holland City Manager Keith Van Beek said.
Van Beek said he wants to maintain Holland’s “historic right” to find “the right solutions” for its city.
“This bill is problematic because it’s really a hammer that strips all local control away from communities to come up with reasonable, logical fixes,” he added.
Right now, Holland only allows 25 Airbnbs in residential areas. They need to be 500 feet apart. Van Beek said that’s done to protect “the character” of neighborhoods, keeping them family-friendly.
“Traditionally, you’re taking a look at families that are living there year-round with kids that attend schools,” Van Beek said. “Neighbors that know each other and have picnics together. We’ve limited the short-term commercial uses in those neighborhoods to make sure we’re maintaining the character of our neighborhoods.”
The city does allow more Airbnb style-rentals downtown, where there are more hotels.
But Van Beek said that with a “housing crunch” in the area, they want to keep homes open to long-term residents, not Airbnb visitors.
“We want to make sure we still have that housing stock primarily for those that want to live, work and play in our neighborhoods and in our city,” the city manager said. “Any housing that’s taken off the market for a commercial use of short-term rentals year-round is one less home available for a family.”
Airbnb listings in Michigan represented less than .4% of the state’s total housing stock on 2021, according to the company.
Airbnb voiced its support for the legislation in a statement to News 8.
“Families across Michigan rely on home sharing to make ends meet and to welcome visitors whose spending supports the state’s businesses and tourism economy,” Airbnb Public Policy Regional Manager Vincent Frillici said in a statement. “Airbnb will continue to work with leaders across the state on balanced rules that bolster the broader tourism economy, provide certainty and clarity for Hosts, and address community concerns.”
Under the legislation, although local governments could no longer ban short-term rentals, they could limit Airbnb owners to only two properties in the area.
State Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, told News 8 he voted for the bill to protect private property rights.
“This is really trying to allow those that have a second home to do some Airbnb,” Meerman said. “It’s not meant to allow companies to come in and buy 10 homes, 15 homes and do Airbnb.”
Meerman said that cities and towns would still maintain important control.
“They can cite people for noise ordinances,” Meerman said. “They can cite people for parking. They can fine the owner of the Airbnb, who I think probably should just go and make sure they take the deposit of the people that were renting the Airbnb. That would stop the parties and the real nuisances.”
The Republican said if issues arise, like late-night parties, cities have the ability to handle them.
“What the local leaders are missing is their real ability to control the problem Airbnbs, and I think we’ve left them with a lot of tools to do that,” Meerman said. “I hope they do that. I don’t want a nuisance Airbnb around more than anybody else.”
Meerman also said he would expect Airbnb owners to pass on any fines to renters.
“In my mind, that would stop a lot of the problem people pretty quickly if they’re going to lose $400 or $500,” Meerman said.
Airbnb has banned parties since August of 2020. The company said in Michigan there has been a 37% year-over-year drop in party reports since.
Under the bill, Airbnb-style rentals cannot make up more than 30% of housing in a community. Van Beek said that’s just too many.
“If anyone stops and thinks about that, does that pass the smell test?” Van Beek said. “When you total up all the homes in our traditional single-family home developments in Holland, that’s a massive amount of short-term rentals. I don’t call that a compromise solution.”
The Rental Property Owners Association is also in favor. The Michigan Restaurant and Lodging Association is against the measure.
Brian Westrin, the general counsel for Michigan Realtors, said it “protects the right to rent from zoning abuse, whether it’s for a short or long-term.”
“It does not eliminate accountability for tenants or property owners,” Westrin said in a statement through Airbnb. “If HB 4722 becomes law, local governments will still possess many tools to embrace private property rights, while still holding bad actors accountable.”