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Should short term room rentals be allowed in Grand Rapids? Task force considers options

Grand Rapids will appoint a task force to take a deeper look at how it should regulate people who want to rent out rooms in their homes on popular websites like Airbnb. The websites allow people to rent out a guest room or just their couch for a night or two.

Technically it's illegal in Grand Rapids. The city commission was considering adopting regulations to allow them. But many people renting space said the city fees and taxes wouldn’t be worth the money.

Supporters of the short-term rentals say they can give tourists a better feel of the city and are more affordable than hotel rooms downtown.

Opponents worry about the impact short-term rentals could have on neighborhoods.

City Commissoner Ruth Kelly says she's confident the task force will come up with a solution.

“When we take the time to explain what the ins and outs are generally speaking, we can come to a compromise – something we don’t always see in other levels of government but fortunately we do here,” Kelly said.

Commissioner Walt Gutowski says the concept is “really cool.” He wants it to be a viable option for tourists.

“They’ll still come to Grand Rapids, but not to the multitude they are now. When I traveled through Europe I did a little of this. It’s a great way to give people a down home feeling of Grand Rapids – so I really like that,” Gutowski said.

On the other hand, Gutowski say they have to balance the needs of neighbors, the safety of guests, and an even playing field for established businesses, like hotels.

Gutowski compared the conversation about short-term room rentals to the ones the city recently had about regulating food trucks.

A task force will study the issues over the next few months and report back to city commission.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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