A meeting between members of the Oklahoma City city council, hosts for Airbnb and the local hotel industry was cancelled last Friday.
The Journal Record’s Brian Brus reports the meeting’s cancellation followed the deferral of an item on the city council’s agenda last week.
Jacob McCleland: You're listening to the Business Intelligence Report, a weekly conversation about business news in Oklahoma. I'm Jacob McCleland. Our guest is Russell Ray. He's the editor of The Journal Recker newspaper. Russell, thank you for talking with us.
Russell Ray: Hi Jacob. Thanks for having me.
McCleland: Now I want to talk about a proposed Oklahoma City ordinance to regulate short term residential rental services like Airbnb. What do we know about this ordinance right now?
Ray: Well, we don't have a specific proposal just yet but there has been a lot of talk in negotiations about what the proposal should look like. Concerns about lost income for the city were raised a few years ago which is when the city start started addressing this issue.
McCleland: Now there was an item on the city council's agenda last week but it was removed. Also a meeting between city council members Airbnb hosts and the local hotel and motel industry was scheduled last week. But it ended up being canceled. Why were these things being pushed back?
Ray: Well apparently all of the interested parties are still too far apart on reaching a resolution and needed more time to discuss the issues. One city councilman told us Airbnb could take its issues to the state legislature and bypass the city altogether. And so the city is trying to avoid that outcome.
McCleland: So it really sounds like there are a lot of different interests jockeying for position here. Who are the different players in this debate over regulating short term residential rentals and what do they want?
Ray: Well in addition to lost income, for the city historic neighborhoods like Heritage Hills in Putnam heights have expressed concerns about Airbnb be turning those neighborhoods into a place for hospitality businesses. Also the city's hotels and motels are saying these Airbnb locations should comply with the same standards and oversight as they do. So while we don't have a specific proposal just yet. Those are the types of restrictions being discussed.
McCleland: So how are other cities regulating services like Airbnb now?
Ray: Well, in Grapevine, Texas short term residential rentals have been banned and as a result of an action a court hearing has been set for next month to determine if the city's action was legal. In Portland, Oregon Airbnb rentals have evolved into agreements to stay for months and even years, not just nightly stays. And even overseas, Airbnb operations have been challenged in Ireland, Amsterdam and Paris.
McCleland: So we could see some more regulations of Airbnb and other similar industries here in Oklahoma City. It should be noted that those industries are currently taxed in Oklahoma City. Now, Russell, in the time we have left, the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs voted last week to build a new veterans home in Sallisaw. It will replace the home in Talihina. Sallisaw was selected over two other possible sites in Muskogee and Poteau. Why did they choose Sallisaw?
Ray: Well surprisingly the Oklahoma Veterans Commission didn't say why Sallisaw was the best location out of the three proposed sites. The commission said all of the proposals were good but didn't make any distinctions between the three.
McCleland: Now this project could cost between $75 and $85 million. Will the state be on the hook for the entire cost?
Ray: That's a great question. Oklahoma could be on the hook for just part of that cost. The agency is hoping to be placed on the priority list for a federal grant program that assists veterans home construction. So if the project makes the list, the federal government would cover 65 percent of the construction costs.
McCleland: Russell Ray is the editor of The Journal Record newspaper. Russell, thank you for your time.
Ray: Thank you.
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