New ordinance might end Air BnB in University Heights

Airbnb hosts in the Iowa City area are worried the city will soon be taking away a major profit.

A city ordinance plans to amend rental housing code and ban people from renting inside the University Heights area. TV9 spoke with a host who owns a home near Kinnick Stadium, who said it's going to put her in a huge financial burden. She said she relies on the money to help pay her mortgage on another home while in the process of selling the one near the stadium. People staying at Airbnb's in Iowa City during the Hawkeye football season have brought in more than $223,000 in supplemental income for hosts.

The ordinance claims amending the rental housing code for short-term rentals will help avoid party houses in family neighborhoods and decrease tourist traffic. Airbnb told TV9, considering the success home sharing has had in town, banning it in a prime real-estate area would create more trouble than it's worth.

"Straight-up bans generally don't work, whether it's in Iowa or the rest of the Midwest or the rest of the country." said Airbnb Midwest Public Affairs Spokesman Ben Breit. "We see it time and time again that it doesn't work. It creates acrimony and it's expensive for the city to try to enforce that."

But the home sharing company said they do support the taxes that come with Iowa hotel/motel law.

"An ambiguous hosting environment, an unregulated one is not good," said Breit. "We want people to know where the line is of what we're allowed to do. What we want cities to do is pursue fair regulations."

Airbnb said this upcoming weekend is expected to attracted 220 guests and bring in $25,000.

University Heights city council had the third consideration of the ordinance November 12. We reached out to University Heights city officials for comment, but nobody on council nor the mayor returned our calls.