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Columbia leaders moving forward with short-term rental policy study

Howard Duvall pondering (copy)

Columbia City Councilman Howard Duvall, right, and Councilman Sam Davis, left, during a 2019 Council meeting. Duvall and Davis are part of a committee proposing regulations for short-term rentals like those listed on Airbnb.

COLUMBIA — Columbia city leaders are moving forward with a promised look into short-term rental policies despite concerns from a major business advocacy group that worries about its impact on an economy just crawling out of a pandemic.

A three-person City Council committee of Will Brennan, Sam Davis and Howard Duvall will study a proposed ordinance setting regulations on the properties, which could include barring any from being rented out of if the homeowner doesn’t live on site.

Councilmembers approved the panel on July 20, saying it has become a hot topic among constituents that deserves scrutiny. No date was set for its initial meeting, but Duvall said the process will be exhaustive.

"I consider this to be a several months event so we'll be taking lots of testimony from lots of people,” he said.

Demand for short-term home stays in South Carolina’s capital city is on the rise. In the second quarter of this year, 728 properties rental properties are active — an almost 11 percent jump from the same amount in 2020 according to industry tracker AirDNA.

The average daily rate in May was $149, while occupancy rates have leapt from 48 percent in December to 77 percent as of June 30, AirDNA reported.

If Columbia crafts short-term rental guidelines, they’d be joining other communities in the region such as Beaufort, Charleston, Greenville and Myrtle Beach.

In Charleston, short-term rentals can only be operated as part of the owner’s primary residence, with a maximum of four guests. In Beaufort, standalone short-term rentals are capped at 6 percent of properties in particular neighborhoods, while owner-occupied rentals such as a carriage house or garage apartment don’t count against the cap.

Myrtle Beach doesn’t allow short-term rentals at all in residential areas. In North Carolina’s capital city, short-term rentals are allowed in residential areas but can’t host special events or gatherings in those areas and can’t make up more than 25 percent of units in a multifamily building.

Earlier this month, Columbia Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Carl Blackstone worried about the affect a restrictive policy could have on the area as they grow in popularity. On top of that, short-term rental owners pay a higher six percent property tax rate.

“At a time we’re trying to open back up from a pandemic, now is not the time to put up hurdles for people visiting Columbia,” Blackstone said on July 4. “We need to be opening our arms and welcoming people to come anyway we can.”

City resident Carl Brown said in a written statement to the council that any changes it proposes should be narrowly crafted.

"I believe that the council should consider how it may enforce current laws, and resources to address "bad apples" in the short them rental space instead of punishing with a "Broad Brush" those who are building businesses and providing quality, safe and necessary alternatives in the city for families to visit and enjoy," Brown wrote. 

Follow Adam Benson on Twitter @AdamNewshound12.

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