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Politics

Mayors Tomás Regalado and Philip Levine Refuse to Back Down on Strict Airbnb Regulations

March 20, 2017 - 5:00pm

If Miami area Mayors Tomás Regalado and Philip Levine made anything clear Monday, it’s that they have no plans to back down on their ongoing war against homesharing company Airbnb anytime soon.

The two stood at a podium in front of Miami City Hall Monday morning for a press conference with reporters, vowing to limit Airbnb properties to commercial zones only -- and nowhere else.

The City Hall backdrop was water, boats and sunshine -- all part of the environment which beckons millions of visitors to vacation in the Sunshine State.

Outside, a group of Airbnb hosts gathered, protesting mass restrictions and fines as high as $20,000 on their properties -- all for renting out their homes on Airbnb. 

“These mayors are inn-sane,” read one sign. 

“Lame duck Levine,” read another.

Another accused Levine and Regalado of being motivated by special interests, placing the wants of the powerful over the needs of the people. 

For Miami Airbnb hosts, renting out their houses is a way to make a little extra money while they're not occupying them and share the magic of the “Magic City” with tourists.

"Airbnb is a way to share our lifestyle with others,” said Miami Airbnb host Susana Medina. Medina uses her home for supplemental income and feels she can really give back to the community and share the Miami lifestyle with travelers through Airbnb.

Levine and Regalado don’t agree.

While the two believe tourism is good for the economy, they say Airbnb, a home sharing service which offers middle class tourists a less expensive alternative to hotel lodging, is bad for their cities.

The mayors trashed the company for bringing boozy parties and sketchy people to Miami, causing waves of complaints from citizens. 

To fight back, Regalado has proposed cracking down on Airbnb regulations while Levine has skyrocketed fines for renters up to $20,000 a pop. Levine has repeatedly said those fines aren't high enough, vowing to tick the fees up even more.

At one point, Levine even implied the Airbnb hosts were paid protesters, sent to cause a commotion at the press conference.

“I wish all our Homeowners Association presidents could be here today,” Levine said sarcastically. “Unfortunately, they’re all working. They’re not being paid by anybody.” 

The two, especially Levine, have been accused of putting the interests of the hotel industry over the interests of a free market. Levine disagreed, saying he wasn’t being influenced by anyone but his constituents, who hate Airbnb and everything it stands for. 

Overhead, an airplane waving a banner flew by, its engine roaring over Regalado and Levine as they railed against Airbnb.

“Regalado and Levine,  Have Suite Dreams! #HotelBuddies,” the banner read. 

Negotiations, it seems, are a long way off. Airbnb told Sunshine State News last month that the mayors repeatedly refuse to meet with them to discuss some kind of agreement, making moving forward with sensible regulations a difficult prospect.

But Regalado stood firm that Airbnb brings nothing positive to the Miami area. 

Talking with the company, he explained, would be pointless.

“There’s nothing to negotiate,” he told reporters.

Levine has taken a more aggressive approach against Airbnb, unleashing his fury on the company via social media, tweeting Miami Beach “doesn’t want” what Airbnb is selling.

When SSN asked whether he felt his Trump-style Twitter tirade would affect possible interactions and negotiations with the company, Levine turned vicious against the company.

“Airbnb goes out and attacks me because I’m going out there and protecting the residents,” Levine scoffed. “What Airbnb is not interested in is attacking somebody who actually has their own resources who can attack back or somebody that hasn’t taken any money from the hotel industry ... It’s one of those things, that, when you get punched, sometimes you get punched [back.]”

Levine remained unapologetic.

“I’m so sorry Airbnb feels so persecuted,” he said sarcastically. “I’m shedding crocodile tears.”

Meanwhile, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez struck a deal with the company, agreeing on a tentative 6 percent county bed tax for Airbnb, which would pump around $8 million into the county annually.

Hosts said they don’t mind being taxed as long as they can still offer their homes to visitors to make extra cash. 

Without the supplemental income from Airbnb, some hosts fear they won’t be able to make ends meet -- and they’ll have to leave the place they call home. 

“I’ve lived here all my life,” said Miami host Aida Ibanaz. “I can’t live here [with these regulations]. I’m going to have to put my house up for sale. I can’t keep taking hits [like this]. It’s impossible.”

 

Reach reporter Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com or follow her on Twitter: @AllisonNielsen.


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Comments

What a bunch of crap. Our houses are to do with how we see fit as long as we don;t violate another's rights. The mayor is violating his oath to office and should be sued.

Frank, try living in a condo that allows Airbnb, you'll be moving out within 24 hours.

from experience the consequences are the following: any condo building that allows Airbnb will be coded by Banks as a hotel, therefor no financing will be available, therefor all resident owners must sell to investors at below market prices, and as those units become Airbnb units, you have a de-facto Airbnb hotel. The resident owners loose, the city and schools loose with lower property values, the neighborhood becomes a transient area, but it is a great for the investors and Airbnb shareholders.

How naive theses comments are. Your neighborhood is converted to commercial property without your input. When anyone buys a property it is purchased within a regulatory structure that defines the neighborhood. Changes to that structure take place within the regulatory process and before they are implemented. The Airbnb folks want their lawbreaking activities legalized after the fact. That is not how the USA works.

This is liberalism at its best. The mayor grabbed his ankles and is loving every thrust from hospitality sector. The only time they are for businesses is when those businesses donate to them or they have a battle cry. Maybe, just maybe Mr. Levine perhaps you could strike a deal between the two. The people that pay 89-150 a night with Airbnb would never or can't pay 300 + a night like I did recently in Miami. Those are lost dollars for the Miami economy. Now who's crying crocodile tears:)) Then there's the $30. a night for parking 18% mandatory gratuity for purchases. etc. Oh I paid a cab $50 to go to South Beach and $16 back with Uber. Guess how I will be traveling when I don't want to drive an insanely amount of time having to worry about DWI?? Be creative Mayor you had enough BS to get elected so now craft a deal you know ,"The Art of a Deal?" I know a guy that could help you out..

These Mayors are OWNED by the hotels and motels. They don't care about their constituents - they only care about their BIG DONORS. Just like UBER - where these Mayros get their big donations from the taxi cab owners. This is America - NOT CUBA. Who are these little dictators - Castro-look-alikes?????? We will not stand for this and this will not stand. America is a FREE country - not like the old country where bribes are a way of life. CORRUPT MAYORS & HOTEL BRIBES - THIS IS AMERICA - LAND OF THE FREE - WE WILL REPLACE YOU DICTATORS

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