Portland legalizes Airbnb

We have a story in this week's issue about the City of Spokane's current effort to figure out how to reasonably regulate short-term rentals like those offered on the popular website Airbnb. If you've stayed at an Airbnb rental, you know it's often such a cool experience because you're in someone's home, in a neighborhood, rather than in an area surrounded by chain hotels and restaurants. But that's also the reason they're so troublesome for local governments. They may not really be hotels, but they're operating in a similar way, and that brings up questions about zoning and health codes and taxes and fire sprinklers and ADA accessibility and lots of other stuff. So this has been an increasingly tricky issue for cities across the country.

On Wednesday, Portland became the first major city in the Northwest to craft a solution, reports the Oregonian. The move will allow Portland homeowners to rent out their houses or rooms if they notify their neighbors, have their house inspected and get a $180 permit.

City leaders in Portland have faced challenges to their push to open the door to Airbnb and similar rental services, but the sprinkler requirement Spokane is stumbling over is not an issue in Oregon. Richard Rogers, chief building official for the Oregon Building Codes Divison, tells us there's "nothing in the state building code that would require sprinklers in short-term rentals."

In a blog post about the vote, Airbnb called Portland's new policy "sensible legislation making it easier for many Portlanders to share their homes." However, the company will push for even more, like letting apartment-dwellers rent on the site too.