The Rapidian

In support of shareable cities: residents and local leaders Paul and Rachel Lee support homesharing

Rachel Lee, leading the East Hills Council of Neighbors, and her brother Paul Lee, owner of three local businesses, share their letters to our City Commissioners about proposed legislation regarding homesharing in the city of Grand Rapids.

Cities as platforms for sharing

"Today, new circumstances have created an unprecedented opportunity to amplify cities as platforms for sharing. People are already acting on this opportunity. Driven by economic need and empowered by new technologies, they’re creating new, more resilient ways of providing food, jobs, housing, goods and transportation for themselves and each other in cities."

-Policies for Shareable Cities

/Courtesy of Rachel Lee

Editor's note: Rachel and Paul Lee, siblings living and working in the Uptown area of Grand Rapids, both asked to be able to share their letters to our City Commissioners in a public manner on The Rapidian's platform. Rachel Lee, Director of a nonprofit neighborhood organization, and Paul Lee, restaurant owner of two restaurants on Wealthy Street, are both in favor of our City supporting individual use of Airbnb and home sharing in our city. We encourage all local citizens to voice their own perspectives and let their local leaders know their thoughts as they work to determine the best course of action for our city on this issue.

From Rachel Lee:

The East Hills Council of Neighbors is supportive of services such as Airbnb. We see it as an opportunity for our residents to participate in the sharing economy with community-based tourism which provides an unique experience to visitors to our area. 

East Hills is a diverse, thriving, walkable central city neighborhood composed of seven sub-neighborhoods, three historic districts and three business district areas all within 1/3 square mile. Users of Airbnb in East Hills are provided with a distinctive authentic experience of the best of Grand Rapids in a friendly, neighborhood environment at an affordable price. Visitors are attracted to the historic character and the numerous options for dining and entertainment venues within walking distance from East Hills Airbnb hosts, keeping their dollars in our neighborhood. They don't just stay in our neighborhood, they spend their dollars here, supporting the local economy.

Part of being a good Airbnb host is providing that inside information of what to do and where to go. So much of the success of Airbnb hosts and guests rely on reviews from users and hosts. Good hosts are good neighbors. To date, we have received zero complaints from neighbors of Airbnb hosts. We are supportive of some legislative regulations to ensure safety of our residents and visitors, like Airbnb hosts proving property insurance documentation. However, we feel that requiring Airbnb hosts with no prior property complaints to submit a costly application for Special Land Use approval, is an unnecessary hardship, effectively eliminating the majority of proposed hosts. 

As far as the issue of parking being a problem, We cannot continue to plan our city around parking needs. 

This community-based tourism also helps make our neighborhoods safer by providing more eyes on the street than a house or apartment that sits empty, while a host is away. 

Let us use this process for more dialogue before costly regulations. 

We continue to state how supporting local businesses is important to the health of our local economy, however we also need to recognize that supporting the sharing economy is supporting the economic vitality of our neighborhood residents.

Visitors want to be a part of East Hills living; Airbnb gives them that experience.

In East Hills Living, 

Rachel Lee
Director, East Hills Council of Neighbors

 

 

From Paul Lee:

Dear Planning Commissioners,

As a local resident and neighborhood business owner, I am supportive of homesharing and services like Airbnb. I have two restaurants and a food truck (the Winchester, What the Truck, and Donkey Taqueria) located in the 600 block of Wealthy Street SE, a business district that has seen a welcome resurgence in development and reinvestment in the business district.

Our businesses, like others in neighboring business districts, have garnered local, state and national media attention. We are a destination, but believe that the destination should not only appeal to out-of-towners. By becoming more of a sharing economy, homesharing and Airbnb is able to reach a segment of local economy that may not have the financial means for a “staycation” that entails a downtown hotel or one of the bed and breakfast spots that dot Heritage Hill. This service also has the potential to reach a segment of the local economy that wants to experience what it’s like to live in a thriving neighborhood business district, to walk out your door in the morning and stroll by the beautifully restored historic homes, to grab a coffee or pastry at local bakery, or perhaps walk to dinner and drinks on a nice summer night. For some, these experiences could lead to reinvestment in the residential neighborhood by way of new home ownership or updating a current rental property.

What a sharing economy means to me is a collaboration of our resources, commercial and residential, to achieve something much greater than the sum of its parts.

While I am supportive of regulation to ensure standards and safety of those sharing their home, to require Special Land Use approval, neighbor notification, and additional licensing fees puts unnecessary burden and hardship on proposed hosts. One need look no further than current Grand Rapid Mobile Vending regulations to see what over-regulation, due in part because of a handful of fearful business owners resistant to inevitable change, does to our city. What was a viable business leading to infrastructure investment in many markets (big and small) is viewed as a novelty in our city.

As a beneficial service with a proven 3.5 year unblemished track record, homesharing shouldn’t be a novelty; it should be allowed its place as a beneficial contributor in transforming our city to one that’s inclusive, progressive, vibrant and approachable to all.

I believe owner-occupied homesharing is an important emerging model that should be welcomed and incentivized in Grand Rapids. It is my hope that we recognize this and allow for more dialogue and study before making a decision that burdens progress.

Grand Rapids was voted the #1 travel destination for 2014 by Lonely Planet. We urge our planning commissioners to uphold the mission of Grand Rapids Planning Department, “We Facilitate Positive Change” and to support innovative policies that will make our city more inclusive and hospitable. We hope you will consider loosening the proposed regulations so the peer-to-peer marketplace and collaborative economy can take root in Grand Rapids.

 

Sincerely,

Paul Lee - Operating Partner

The Winchester / Donkey Taqueria / What the Truck

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