Fishers considers joining debate on Airbnb usage, regulations

The city of Fishers is considering creating a committee to discuss the impact and usage of short-term housing rentals.

Their concern comes in the midst of a national debate over allowing homeowners to rent their properties through popular online services like Airbnb—a debate that has included communities in Indianapolis' northern suburbs.

For example, the city of Carmel sent letters to Airbnb hosts on Jan. 17 saying they were in violation of city zoning laws and demanded they cease operations within 10 days or request a zoning variance. In July, Zionsville officials ordered a couple to stop offering an apartment above their garage to out-of-town guests.

In July, Fishers officials had said the city did not have specific regulations on Airbnb rentals but that they were monitoring the situation.

“There is a difference in impact between sub-leasing one's home to a single renter for a period of time versus leasing for short-term use to visitors who may change week to week,” Fishers Deputy Mayor Leah McGrath said in an email. “How and whether to allow for weekly rentals is a question each community needs to evaluate and requires a broader discussion around impact to neighbors, public safety and location.”

McGrath said the city is in the early discussion of forming a committee, and City Council members Richard Block and Eric Moeller have been recommended to serve on it.

Other committee members and meeting dates have not been determined.

Regulating or trying to prevent short-term housing rentals is already being met with opposition.

A bill filed by Rep. Matt Lehman, R-Berne, would prohibit cities and towns in Indiana from banning short-term rentals, and the MIBOR Realtor Association announced Jan. 20 that it strongly opposes the letters Carmel sent to property owners.

“Short term rentals provide an opportunity for communities to showcase their neighborhoods, promote tourism and generate revenue in the community,” MIBOR’s statement read. “Short term rentals have become a great option for consumers and are a very popular alternative for some travelers who prefer something other than the traditional hotel accommodations.”

Carmel officials have said the action was in response to complaints from local residents, homeowner associations and hotels.

As of Friday morning, several Airbnb listings for Carmel were still active on the website.

According to data released in December from Airbnb, approximately 83,000 people used the service statewide in 2016, generating $10.6 million in income for hosts. Carmel was ranked the fifth-busiest community in the state for guest arrivals, with 1,900 overnight visitors using Airbnb. The business generated a total of $239,000 for hosts in Carmel.

Fishers was ranked 13th overall for Airbnb visitors with 900 guests last year, which resulted in $115,000 in host income.

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