Neighbors gather for public forum over future of Airbnb in Rochester

Public forum addresses short-term rentals

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Safety and the future of Airbnbs and other short-term rentals were on the minds of people who gathered at a public forum with Rochester city councilmembers on Wednesday.

For some, like Dwight Robinson, renting rooms is all about financial freedom and providing housing to those who need it.

“I support the Airbnbs and short-term rentals in Rochester because they are a positive thing for the city and I don’t want it to be limited because it’s a source of financial freedom for a lot of folk that live here,” Robinson said.

Last December, shots were fired and a person was murdered inside an Airbnb rental home off Atlantic Avenue. That’s one reason why City Council Vice President Mary Lupien said the city is proposing regulations.

“The proposed zoning code is going to have them be banned altogether in low-density and middle-density residential,” Lupien said.

However, Lupien said that goes a step too far.

“What I’m proposing, instead of regulating geographically, that we regulate in terms of primary residence. And so you would be able to have an Airbnb in your primary residence — whether, you know, that’s a room in your house,” Lupien said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the public was given a chance to voice their concerns.

“Yes, there have been a few incidents that have happened, but look at the majority of people who need safe housing. I mean, they’re families,” an attendee said.

It’s why Lupien said it’s important for Rochester to keep doors open to Airbnb if it’s done in a safe way.
“I still think it’s important for someone to have the capacity for someone to own a home to earn a little extra money renting it out. But what I’m really here to do is listen to the community,” Lupien said.

That’s something that Robinson hopes councilmembers will keep in mind before imposing any kind of regulations.

“They provide safe places for people to stay when they are coming to visit family, schools, hospitals –basically a nice place to stay that’s other than a hotel,” Robinson said.