Proposed Zone Code Adds Regulations to Short-Term Rentals

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Des Moines City Council is holding a public hearing Monday night for a new proposed zoning code. The new code has drawn attention from multiple developers and organizations like Habitat for Humanity but also from Airbnb hosts.

Many people use Airbnb for as a homey alternative to a hotel and as a way to immerse themselves into a city’s culture. But the proposed zoning code in Des Moines could greatly limit your options.

The new code would restrict hosts to renting their spaces no more than 90 days out of the year, greatly limiting their income.

“We wouldn’t be able to do it if we didn’t have the income we couldn’t afford to have two mortgage payments,” said local Airbnb host Mel Veach.

Mel and Anne Veach bought their apartment in downtown Des Moines with the intentions of eventually retiring and living there. Until then, their home is rented out more than half the year to tourists, athletes and returning business people. The Veaches also highlight local businesses in the process, by sharing local guides for restaurants and activities and treating guests to local goodies during check-in.

“We love the connection and to be able to show people how great Des Moines is,” said Mel.

Currently there are over 300 Airbnbs in the metro area. In a statement provided by Airbnb, hosts brought in 25,000 visitors to Polk County and earned a combined income of $2.5 million in 2018.

Local hosts like Brad Podray are hoping to peacefully negotiate with the Des Moines City Council but are prepared to take additional steps if necessary.

“I don't want to make it seem like seem like we are being aggressive or heavy handed,” said Podray in a phone interview. “I don’t think that’s the way we want to be negotiating with our leaders. We want to come to the table and show them what benefits Airbnbs have brought to the city and show them the jobs that Airbnb brings to the city and by proving that … I hope that we can bring fair regulations.”

Under the proposed changes, hosts can seek an extension from the zoning board of adjustment or obtain a full-time rental permit to lease out their property.

City council was not able to comment ahead of Monday night's anticipated meeting.

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