Jefferson City saw more than 1,000 Airbnb guests in 2017, despite it being illegal to operate a short-term rental in city limits.
Under the city's zoning code, residential property owners can't rent out rooms. However, according to an Airbnb news release, 1,050 Airbnb guests stayed in Jefferson City this year.
As of Wednesday, there were 33 short-term rentals and bed and breakfasts listed on Airbnb, a short-term rental company.
The Jefferson City Council heard a proposed ordinance Monday to legalize short-term rentals in city limits. The council will hold a public hearing and vote on it Jan. 2.
Under the ordinance, a short-term rental of a residence would be defined as a property owner renting his or her house to an individual for less than one month. A short-term rental of a lodging room would involve renting out a single room or basement to someone for less than a month. Short-term lodging room rentals would not operate multiple rentals in the same residence.
Jefferson City's ordinance would be more restrictive than what the company offers, as Airbnb does not limit the time a guest can stay in a residence and it allows for multiple rentals in a residence.
Airbnb Midwest spokesman Ben Breit said it is rare for Jefferson City property owners to offer long-term stays or multiple rooms in a residence. The average length of stay for Airbnb guests in Jefferson City was three days, and the majority of hosts in Jefferson City were renting either single rooms in their residences or their entire homes, he added.
Breit said while it is rare for individuals to stay longer than a month or for hosts to offer multiple rentals in a home, it happens occasionally.
"It's not up to Airbnb to limit something like that — it's up to the host," he said. "This platform is in tens of thousands of cities right now, so everyone has different laws. What we tell hosts when they join is you've got to know the local law."
Approximately 289,000 guests visited Missouri through Airbnb and 6,300 Missouri hosts used Airbnb in 2017, according to the company's news release. Columbia saw more than 11,100 Airbnb guests in 2017, while cities in the Lake of the Ozarks area — Osage Beach, Lake Ozark, Camdenton and Sunrise Beach — combined for more than 12,000 total. Hermann saw approximately 3,000.
Jefferson City Airbnb hosts earned a total of $111,000 in 2017. Missouri hosts averaged approximately $5,300 annually in supplemental income through Airbnb, and the state saw $28.8 million total in supplemental income from Airbnb rentals.
Jefferson City Senior Planner Eric Barron said short-term rentals are a growing trend, and several cities are looking at ways to regulate them. He thinks this would be a good opportunity for owners of historic buildings, particularly those along East Capitol Avenue.
"There's so much history focused on in our community, and it seems like there might be an opportunity for some of the historic homes in that area to capitalize on prison tours and such and offer an enhanced way to experience Jefferson City's history in addition to the prison tours and the Capitol building," he said.
Under Jefferson City's proposed ordinance, property owners renting out one room would have to pay the city's 7 percent lodging tax. Currently, a person has to rent out three rooms to pay the lodging tax.
Short-term rental operators also will need a business license to operate the business, according to the proposed ordinance.
Property owners in single-family, multi-family and industrial districts would need to apply for special exception use permits to operate short-term rentals. Short-term rentals would be permitted in commercial and mixed-use zoning districts.
The Jefferson City Planning and Zoning Commission would hold a public hearing and decide whether to approve the permit. If approved, it would go to the City Council for final approval.
The permit would cost $210 and would be nontransferable, as it would be issued in the property owner's name.
A maximum of five unrelated people or an unlimited number of related individuals could stay in a short-term rental at a time, according to the proposed ordinance.
Property owners would be prohibited from renting accessory structures like detached garages.
Breit said he thinks legalizing short-term rentals would help Jefferson City capitalize on large events at Lincoln University or during legislative session.
During the solar eclipse, dozens of residents in Jefferson City were advertised as short-term rentals. Amy Schneider, director of Columbia's Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the News Tribune in September there were more than 450 Columbia properties rented during the eclipse.
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"Keeping as many folks as possible within the corporate limits of the city means they're spending more money in the city and benefiting the small business community," he said. "Jefferson City hosts really serve as incredible ambassadors for both their city and their neighborhood."
If the council approves the ordinance, Barron said, the next step will be for short-term rental operators to meet with city staff and fill out the proper forms.
Offering a rental without a special exception use permit would be a violation of the zoning code. Property owners violating the zoning code could be fined up to $1,000, be imprisoned up to three months or both.
Bed and breakfast homes are allowed in city limits, but they can't provide more than two guest rooms. A bed and breakfast inn can have more than two guest rooms, though.
The Planning and Zoning Commission approved the ordinance in October.