Minneapolis is taking steps to regulate services such as Airbnb and hundreds of short-term rental properties across the city, months before visitors descend on the Twin Cities for the Super Bowl.
The move comes as other cities in Minnesota and the country figure out how to keep tabs on short-term rentals.
"The sharing economy is coming to town in a major way," said Council Member Jacob Frey, who introduced two ordinances that would regulate an estimated 1,600 short-term rental properties in Minneapolis. "We need to figure out how to do this right."
A City Council committee approved the proposed regulations Tuesday, with the caveat that there will likely be changes based on public input before the full council votes later this month.
The regulations would apply to units rented for less than 30 consecutive days and require short-term rental services and some rental "hosts" to obtain a city license.
Hosts who live at the property but move out while guests are there would have to get a $46 annual license. Hosts who rent out a property where they do not live would have to get a standard rental license. Hosts who always live at the property would not be regulated or have to pay a license fee.
Hosting platforms, including websites such as Airbnb, VRBO and Expedia, would have to get a $5,000 annual license, and could not list properties that do not comply with city regulations.
Most people who spoke at the public hearing Tuesday were Airbnb hosts who wanted more information.
Ruth and Frank Bures live in Winona, Minn., and bought a house in Minneapolis so they could visit their sons.
When they're not in town, Ruth Bures said, they rent the house through Airbnb. On Tuesday, the couple asked the council to consider letting them apply for the $46 annual license, rather than a full rental license.
"We're not operating this as a business," Ruth Bures said. "This is truly our second home."
A few speakers who own local short-term rental businesses raised concerns about having to pay the same amount for a license as big corporations. In response, Council Member Lisa Goodman asked city staff to explore creating a two-tiered system with different regulations for large and small platforms.
Ben Breit, an Airbnb spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday, "Airbnb and our hosts are thankful to Minneapolis policymakers for continuing to address this complex issue in good faith. We want to partner with them on common sense and fair regulations."
St. Paul will vote on a regulation Wednesday; Minneapolis will vote on its ordinance Oct. 20. It could begin accepting license applications Dec. 1.