Airbnb’s two slogans “live like a local” and “belong anywhere” give a sense of the company’s unique value proposition, that instead of checking into a corporate hotel, travelers can nestle their way in a new city among the natives. Airbnb, a home-sharing app and website founded in 2008, has revolutionized the way people travel and has monetized that extra bedroom or spare property.   In Nashville, a city known for being the new “It City” and a haven for bachelor and bachelorette parties, Airbnbs have exploded in the city, especially as hotels have struggled to keep up with the city’s population and tourism boom.

But the relationship between Airbnb and Nashville has been contentious, culminating in a fight between Airbnb, Nashville city officials, and Tennessee State Legislators. The result of this fight? Based on the Nashville ordinance, Airbnbs are banned in residential areas. All existing, non-owner-occupied Airbnbs in residential neighborhoods will be phased by 2020. And while the Tennessee General Assembly failed to challenge the Nashville ordinance last year, it possible they could move on this issue as the grandfathering provision timeline grows closers.

And if you think this issue is finally being put to rest, think again.

Enter Niido.

Niido is home-sharing apartment community startup and a reflection of a partnership between Newgard Development Group and Airbnb. With Niido, long-term apartment rentals are set up next door to short-term rentals. But this set-up took the long-term residents by surprise, since when the long-term renters moved in, they had no idea the apartment space would be used that way.

And with Niido social media touting, “spring break all year-round at Niido,” residents are concerned and protesting. These residents are looking to effectuate change, they are looking to local government for a solution. Could there also be a legal solution with the government through zoning and land use law?

Zoning has traditionally aimed at separating different uses of land in order to protect the “health, safety, and morals” of the community. In doing so, residential use has been separated from other types of uses, like commercial use. But as Niido seeks to merge local living with tourism, the lines blur between apartment buildings and hotels. Part of Airbnb’s–like its counterparts in ridesharing, Lyft and Uber–depends on that disruption of the traditional industry. But the common complaint from the industry is that by disrupting, these new tech company skirt regulations that long-time players have to adhere to.

Additionally, for Airbnb’s Niido, converting an apartment building into a short-term rental facility will not just bother hotel chains, but also may be a nuisance to some residents of the complex and their neighbors. Beyond nuisance concerns, there are questions about affordability if the government allows individuals and outside investors to rent out their home, potentially allowing tourists to price out local residents. On the other hand, Niido might allow some residents the opportunity to afford living closer to Nashville’s center.

These questions surround whether or not or to what extent a city should allow a short-term rental apartment complex are difficult to answer. But Nashville and other cities should be looking ahead, thinking broadly about what zoning measures allow for innovation and business, but also protect the interests of its residents.

Rachel Miklaszewski


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