Claim: Racism possibly drives Nashville’s crackdown on Airbnb’s

Claim: Racism possibly drives Nashville’s crackdown on Airbnb’s

(Bureau chief’s note: This is the first in a three-part series about home-sharing programs and Nashville’s attempts to regulate them)

Rowdy, loud-mouthed drunkards who carouse all hours of the night.

Thoughtless, self-centered people who adjust their speakers to full volume at 2 a.m., without care or thought for the neighbors, and profane behavior and language that would redden the face of any hedonist.

It’s a portrait certain Nashville Metro Council members paint depicting those who use Airbnb’s. As reported, Airbnbs are home-sharing programs that operate much like an Uber app. Instead of people using their cars to compete with cab drivers, they share their homes.

Council member Davette Blalock in an email to Tennessee Watchdog said her constituents have complained about these type people “disrupting normal, quiet neighborhoods.”

In another email, council member Burkley Allen said these people are “unruly guests.”

Alece Ronzino (photo courtesy of Alece Ronzino)

Alece Ronzino, who rents out Airbnb’s (photo courtesy of Google)

They and their colleagues are taking steps to clamp down on these home-sharing programs, and if they have their way, certain people who run Airbnbs won’t get a license to operate.

Others say it’s mostly bluster.

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“There are laws on the books that are already supposed to deal with those things. If there are noise code violations then the city needs to enforce what is on the books,” said Mark Cunningham, spokesman for the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free-market think tank.

“I’m sure some of the stories about partying are true, but some of those stories seem exaggerated based on people not wanting Airbnbs in their neighborhoods.

Shan Canfield said she had 139 lodgers last year at two Airbnb’s she runs in East Nashville. Mostly, she said, these are families or couples in town for music shows, football games or weddings. She said her neighbors never complained.

Canfield said she had only one troublemaker, a well-known entertainer who had drugs. She did not identify the entertainer but said she dealt with the problem.

“I will not rent to this guest again,” Canfield said.

“I’m getting ready to retire this year. Airbnbs enable us to survive until our dying day — assuming our investment doesn’t get interfered with.”

Alece Ronzino runs Airbnbs in East Nashville, and she has done so for two years, all for extra income. There’s never been an incident, she said.

“I won’t allow one bad seed to ruin the whole crop,” Ronzino said.

Shan Canfield

Shan Canfield (photo courtesy of Facebook)

“I understand that trouble is a possibility, and I don’t doubt it has happened elsewhere in Nashville, but I looked at all the reports that have ever been made to the city, and they are so miniscule compared to the number of people who have stayed in our city via Airbnbs. I’d rather the city find a better way to enforce policies.”

Ronzino said many of her guests only come to Nashville because Airbnbs make the trip affordable. Competing hotel rooms, she said, “charge exorbitant prices.”

Ronzino said some of the people who complain about Airbnbs may have ulterior motives.

“It’s racism masked in nicer phrases,” Ronzino said.

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“You hear someone say ‘We don’t like not knowing who these strangers are on our street,’ or ‘We don’t like seeing people that aren’t normally in our neighborhood.’ Really they are saying these guests don’t look like them or look like we would want them to look. People for whatever reason want to keep their neighborhood looking just like they look.”

According to a recent NewsChannel 5 report, council members are pushing for an amendment to temporarily stop the issue of new city permits for non-owner occupied short-term rentals. It’s a move to determine how best to regulate home-sharing properties.

Mark Cunningham (photo courtesy of LinkedIn)

Mark Cunningham (photo courtesy of LinkedIn)

“The properties are operated by landlords who don’t live at the homes they’re renting and are often looking to cash in on Nashville’s popularity,” the station reported.

As Tennessee Watchdog reported, while Nashville officials seek ways to regulate Airbnb’s they’re also giving millions of dollars in taxpayer money to high-priced hotels — which compete against Airbnb’s.

Cunningham said last year that some of those hotels charge as much as $400 a night.

Contact Christopher Butler at chris@tennesseewatchdog.org 

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