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Airbnb says 440 hosts could make $650,000 during SITW, VB in tough spot with current rules

After Pharrell partnered with Airbnb, Virginia Beach leaders recognized the demand for additional housing and directed homeowners to register with the city

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Something in the Water festival organizer Pharrell recently partnered with Airbnb to help address housing demands for festival visitors, asking Virginia Beach homeowners to "open your doors" and show the diversity of his hometown.

Airbnb responded in kind, deciding to offer local training and 24/7 customer service for Virginia Beach hosts during the week of the SITW festival.

An Airbnb spokeswoman said 440 hosts already booked their homes for the in-demand festival. She said those hosts will make more than $650,000 over the extended weekend, and she expects more hosts to sign up to rent their homes in the coming weeks.

“It’s definitely impressive and it's going to be a really big boom for local residents who stand to make extra money from all of the visitors who are coming into town," spokeswoman Liz DeBold Fusco said.

But Pharrell's message and Airbnb's promotion puts Virginia Beach city leaders in a tough spot. Short-term rentals like Airbnb aren't currently allowed as a recognized use under the city's zoning codes. However, city leaders know there's a demand for additional housing during the festival.

The city released this information in a statement, directing residents to register their property and pay an occupancy tax if they use Airbnb:

Please consider the following if you intend on using your property as a short term rental during the Something in the Water festival:

  • You must register the property with the Commissioner of Revenue prior to commencing the rental activity and pay the appropriate transient occupancy tax. For more information visit Short-Term Rental Tax.
  • All properties operating as a home share or short term rental after November 1, 2019, must comply with the Short Term Rental Ordinances enacted on January 15, 2019.

DeBold Fusco compared SITW demand to the demand at other large events like the Super Bowl. She said most people renting homes during the late April weekend are from elsewhere in Virginia, they're just looking to get closer to Something in the Water.

“We know that home sharing is a way that visitors in a community like Virginia Beach can really get a taste of the local community and the local diversity, so it’s just a perfect fit for what this festival is trying to achieve," she said.

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