If Nebraskans want to rent out their homes and apartments, they should be able to do so.
Yet, in some municipalities, residents remain legally barred from offering short-term rentals through online services such as Airbnb and VRBO. Such overbroad restrictions simply aren’t right.
An effort to ensure Nebraskans can convert extra rooms into extra money, regardless of where they live in the state, has made progress in the Legislature. The Journal Star editorial board is encouraged by the progress and wants to see senators pass standalone legislation that would remove this undue burden.
The ultimate decision on lodging must belong to consumers, not cities. As long as people who want to use their property to make extra income do so in a safe manner, they must be allowed to compete alongside traditional hotels for business.
Lincoln and Omaha, the prime targets for this type of short-term rental, aren’t overrun by such properties. Omaha testified in favor of Sen. Adam Morfeld’s bill. In smaller towns that may lack the tourism infrastructure of bigger cities, short-term online rentals offer perhaps the most effective means of accommodating crowds for events.
Besides, it’s not as if Nebraska has faced some large-scale controversy regarding short-term rentals that other cities have.
The state stands in stark contrast to Nashville, for instance. The Music City saw tensions flare after swaths of the community complained about the noise and safety problems caused by the abundance and concentration of Airbnb rentals in certain parts of town. In the end, Nashville’s city council banned such rentals in residential areas.
By allowing municipalities the latitude needed to ensure public health and safety, such a situation is unlikely to occur under the proposal. Bans on sex offenders and nuisance regulations are among a host of common-sense rules cities would be allowed to enact and enforce.
In the end, preserving that balance is critical. Cities have the obligation to ensure their residents’ safety and security without overreaching in a manner that reduces their economic freedom – which a blanket ban on Airbnb and VRBO rentals would do.
Yes, online services of this nature can annoy or disrupt well-established industries. But innovation doesn’t always come quietly. If these short-term rentals are to be a sustainable source of revenue in Nebraska, they’ll need to compete with lodging options that may have far more amenities.
But, assuming all legitimate health and safety regulations are met, this is a matter of choice.
Nebraskans choose to rent out their homes or apartments for extra income. Visitors choose where they want to stay when visiting the Cornhusker State.
And the best choice for lawmakers is to permit their constituents, whether they're property owners or travelers, to make those decisions for themselves.