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Michigan House votes to bar Airbnb bans

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The Michigan House worked early into Wednesday morning to pass legislation that would prohibit communities from enacting bans on short-term rentals like Airbnb. (Shutterstock image)

LANSING — Michigan municipalities would be unable to ban Airbnb and other short-term rentals under legislation approved early Wednesday in the Republican-led state House. 

House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, kept lawmakers in session until 2 a.m. as he and other GOP leaders wrangled votes for the long-debated legislation pushed by the Michigan Realtors interest group. 

Supporters championed the legislation as a property rights win for homeowners who rent for supplemental income, They say the revised bill gives local governments enough tools to crack down on noise or other nuisances. 

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But critics contend that in stripping local control from cities, villages and townships, the bill benefits business interests while exacerbating housing shortages that already limit living options in some communities. 

The marathon legislative session concluded early Wednesday morning with a 55-48 vote. Nine Democrats, primarily from Detroit and southeast Michigan, voted for the measure. Ten Republicans opposed it. 

House Bill 4722 now heads to the Senate. The legislation would: 

  • Ban local governments from adopting or enforcing zoning ordinances that "have the effect of prohibiting short-term rentals," which are defined as a single-family home or unit available to rent for less than 30 consecutive days
  • Allow local governments to limit an owner or ownership group to as little as two short-term rental properties
  • Allow local governments to limit the total number of short-term rentals to 30 percent of all residential units
  • Allow local governments to regulate and inspect short-term rental units for noise, advertising, traffic or "any other condition that may create a nuisance."

New language adopted early Wednesday would also allow communities that already regulate rental units through "overlay districts” to continue to enforce those policies. So it wasn’t immediately clear how many local governments would be immediately forced to revise ordinances.

The rise of Airbnb rentals has created new economic opportunities for property owners, but it has sparked debate nationwide as officials scramble to respond to residents frustrated by noise or commercial activity in their neighborhood.

In Michigan, the debate has often focused around tourist destinations.

New Buffalo, for instance, in May 2020 enacted a temporary moratorium banning any new short-term rentals. The 2.2 square mile city, located on Lake Michigan near Indiana, had already licensed 150 short-term rentals by that time.

Traverse City limits short-term rentals to certain areas. Same with Mackinaw City, which argues in its ordinance that short-term rentals can undermine "the residential character of existing neighborhoods."

Sponsoring Rep. Sarah Lightner, R-Springport, called her revised legislation a "solid compromise" that would provide certainty for property owners and retain some "flexibility" for local governments. 

“The blanket bans some communities have issued against short-term rentals completely disregard the private property rights of Michigan citizens," Lightner said in a statement.

"The solution I brought forward ends these bans while creating consistency and restoring the rights of Michigan families, so they can invest confidently in a home without worrying whether they will unexpectedly lose the ability to rent that home if they choose."

Dan Gilmartin, CEO and executive director of the Michigan Municipal League, bashed the revised legislation, arguing it would benefit "commercial investors, out-of-town business interests and real-estate brokers" and harm communities.

“This calamity is entirely avoidable," Gilmartin said in a statement. "This bill will pour lighter fluid on an already red-hot housing market should it become law, making it even harder for families to put roofs over their heads."

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