VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A decision by the city of Virginia Beach on short-term rentals is already sparking backlash.
Home rental platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo are growing fast, but not in Virginia Beach.
The city council decided Tuesday, that no new rentals are allowed outside of Sandbridge unless residents of a neighborhood specifically ask the council to allow them.
Council member Barbara Henley explained, “We’re not saying that overlay districts and short-term rentals can only be in one part of the city. You can be in any of these, provided the neighborhood asks for it.”
The Virginia Beach Property Rights Coalition said the council has virtually banned new rentals. It's accusing the city of “killing” a flourishing industry.
City council member John Moss was among the majority ruling.
“My job is to be an advocate for neighborhoods and the status quo because someone is asking for the status quo to be changed," Moss said. “The industry is asking us - ‘and be progressive’ – to up-zone property that changes the character of the neighborhood that other people bought into.”
Coalition board member, Page Miyares said rental platforms like Airbnb aren’t going away just because the city doesn’t want them there.
“It’s kind of like the scooters that just showed up, and no one knew what to do with them, and everyone hated them; But now they’re kind of status quo and I think when you look at the trajectory. I don’t see how that doesn’t happen with this industry as well," she said.
“What they did last night is they really put the traditional, compliant homeowners out of business and they’ve made way for the unregistered AirBnBs to flourish.”
She said this move will push the short-term rental market underground.
“Now they’re turning good people into criminals," Miyares said. “For tourists, it forces them to either go somewhere else: OBX, Myrtle Beach. Or it forces them to stay in one of these illegal Airbnb's."
Miyares said the city has already proven it doesn’t have the funding or staffing to stop underground rentals so it’s likely unregistered Airbnb's will expand.
The issue of unregistered rentals was also brought up by council member Rosemary Wilson who opposed the decision.
“When you’re talking about banning and not having them. So many are going to go underground," Wilson said. "Just like the days of prohibition when alcohol was banned, people still drank but then they did it illegally.”
Miyares called the move is a blow to the economy and the tourism industry. She said if property owners want more information, Miyares said you can visit the Coalition's Facebook page at "Friends of Virginia Beach Vacation Rentals" for more information and to get alerts.