The Sarasota City Commission on Monday voted to delay a debate over new so-called "home sharing" rules until after a formal ordinance has been drafted. If eventually approved, the new rules may allow city residents to rent out portions of their property for less than one week. But unlike with a vacation rental, home sharing requires that a homeowner be present throughout a guest's stay.
On Monday, City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch asked to amend a previous unanimous vote made at an October commission meeting, which asked the city attorney to prepare an ordinance to allow hosted rentals in the city. Ahearn-Koch argued that while home sharing could be a source for additional affordable housing in the city, “what we voted for is a loophole for hotel houses, because we put no limitations on it," she said. "There are homestead issues, tax issues and registration issues.
Just four public speakers were present at the October meeting. Yesterday's meeting drew roughly 20 speakers, many of whom want the city to limit the number of stays a homeowner can host at one time, require homeowners to register with the city and ensure that someone on site can be reached to deal with disturbances caused by guests. Among those present who hoped to speak were local developer Kim Githler; Rick Konsavage, general manager of Longboat Key Club; Chris Goglia, president of the St. Armands Residents Association; Jim Ludwig, treasurer of the Lido Key Residents Association; and Lou Costa, chairperson for the City Coalition of Neighborhood Associations. But, in the absence of an existing home sharing ordinance to comment on, the speakers were denied a chance to voice their concerns.
“I think we need to hear from the public who's been here for six hours," argued Ahearn-Koch. "They're the ones living this.”
City Commissioner Hagen Brody said he was concerned that people are "conflating hotel house issues with home sharing." he said. People in favor of home sharing argue that the problems commonly associated with vacation rentals don’t occur with home sharing because the number of guests is smaller and the resident host is accountable for the guests' behavior.
City Attorney Bob Fournier said any new proposed ordinance would not be ready for discussion until after the end of the year. The city's one-week minimum for short term vacation rentals remains in effect, while new rules for so-called "hotel houses" will kick in next year.