Key for short-term rentals in downtown of the city

FAYETTEVILLE – Most of the city‘s short-term rentals are located downtown, where there are few vacant units and rents are generally higher.

The city’s geographic information system staff is working on an online map showing the type and location of business licenses registered in the city, including those for short-term rentals. The map shows 289 short term rentals registered so far. Of this, approximately 60% is within 2 miles (3.2 km) of Dickson Street and West Avenue in the city’s Entertainment District.

Short-term rental owners, such as those listed online on Airbnb and Vrbo, must obtain a business license and building inspection to legally operate in the city. Application deadline is Saturday.

City ordinances classify short-term rentals as Type I or Type II. Type I rental properties are homes that have full-time occupants with a room made available for nightly stays, or the entire home is made available to guests when the occupants are not are in town. Type II rental apartments are residential units that accommodate guests all year round.

Most of the short term rentals shown on the map are Type II – 241 of the 289. Approximately 140 of the Type II rentals are within 2 miles of Dickson Street and West Avenue.

The housing market in the city center is tight. The Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Arkansas counted 339 multifamily units for rent downtown, excluding student housing, in the second half of 2021. Of these, seven were empty – around 2%. The boundary was generally Maple Street on the north, College Avenue on the east, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on the south, and University Avenue on the west.

Rents in the city center are usually higher than in other parts of the city. The average one-bedroom unit, excluding student housing, cost $761 per month, compared to $683 for the rest of the city. The average two-bedroom unit is $970, compared to $793 citywide. Three-bedroom units in downtown average $1,403 compared to $1,015 in the rest of the city.

Although the center hasn’t specifically tracked the impact of short-term rents on the inner-city housing market, the principle of supply and demand certainly applies, said Jeff Cooperstein, senior research assistant at Walton College of Business.

“People who are offering these short-term rentals definitely make it harder for people who are actually trying to live there, not just vacation there,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.”

Ben Manatt said he lived in an apartment complex near Meadow Street and Church Avenue for almost 15 years before being fired for renovations last year. He said he made an effort and found another apartment closer to downtown, but the rent was significantly higher. The rent at his previous apartment was $600 a month and the rent at the new apartment was $1,200 a month, he said.

Manatt moved back into the Meadow Street apartments a few weeks ago after the renovations were completed. Rent is now $1,000. He said some of the other units are now on short-term leases.

“With all these operations — these were households, these people had to go somewhere,” Manatt said. “I know we want to build growth and bring tourism, and it’s all great. That’s Fayetteville and Northwest Arkansas. But at the same time, Fayetteville’s vibe can’t really survive being ousted.”

Other cities are struggling with neighborhood housing problems stemming from short-term rents. A proposed law making its way through the Arizona Legislature would overturn a 2016 ban that gives local governments the power to regulate rents. Lawmakers say the 2016 law had unintended consequences, according to a January article from tucson.com.

In some areas, investors have bought entire blocks and converted the units into short-term rentals. Up to 40% of residential properties in tourist destinations like Sedona are short-term rentals, the article said. Repealing the 2016 law would return control to local municipalities.

Short-term rents have pushed up rents, contributed to skyrocketing real estate prices, and served as a driver of gentrification in New Orleans’ historically black neighborhoods, according to an April editorial on nola.com.

For the most part, New Orleans hasn’t enforced its own rules on renting, the editorial says, and many are working illegally. Rules include where renting is allowed, restrictions on what types of properties can be rented short-term, and occupancy limits. The City Council recently announced that short term rentals will be treated like any other commercial use in a residential area and will require a permit and building permit.

MARKET IN TRANSITION

Fayetteville has updated information on last minute applications and permits that differs slightly from what is shown on the online map. As of Thursday, the city had received 503 applications for both types of short-term rentals, with 293 approved.

This leaves 210 under review or awaiting further information. Short-term landlords had about a year to apply. In April 2021, the city council decided on regulations for short-term rentals and then extended the application period several times.

The regulations mainly deal with safety measures and obtaining a business license. No more than 2% of all housing units in the city may be rented for short-term rentals, and no more than one unit or 10% of all units in a multi-family building may be rented for short-term rentals.

However, the city’s code does not address the concentration of short-term rental units in a specific area. The council put forward a proposal that would have limited the number of units in a block, but never made it into the final draft regulation.

The data the city is collecting from the registry could help employees better understand the dynamics of how short-term rentals impact the neighborhood, and the city council could potentially make policy decisions based on the information, said Jonathan Curth, director of development services .

“The regulation has been amended three times since it was passed,” he said. “I wouldn’t be shocked if it was changed one or two more times.”

After the Saturday deadline, owners of Type II short-term rentals must obtain planning commission approval in order to operate legally.

Charlotte Maggard of Bodkin Properties said she managed four homes near downtown that were once long-term leases and later renovated for short-term rentals. Various businesses started managing after becoming short-term rentals.

For example, a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home on Mitchell Street west of campus that was last rented for $750 a month, Maggard said. The owner has renovated the house and now accommodates guests all year round. The home is booked for graduation week at the University of Arkansas, she said.

“I would assume you would make that much money in four days,” Maggard said.

The city’s ordinance limiting short-term rentals to 2% of all housing units is helping create a mix of tourist accommodation and housing for residents, said Logan Humphrey, owner of Cohobnb, a local business that operates several short-term rentals in the city region managed.

“That 2% cap should be viewed as 98% instead,” he said. “Ninety-eight doors out of 100 you knock on will be residents of Fayetteville.”

It’s in the nature of the short-term rental business to focus on a city’s attractions, Humphrey said. The central location helps attract tourism funds to the city. Otherwise, tourists may choose to stay in other Northwest Arkansas cities like Bentonville, he said.

Tourism and the residents who live in a community go hand in hand, Humphrey said. Tourism helps make a downtown area great, and the residents who live there contribute to a culture that attracts tourists, he said.

“There’s always going to be some give and take,” Humphrey said. “I don’t really have an answer as to what should or shouldn’t be done based on proximity and location. But I know our tourists want to stay there.”

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