Local rally held for fear of Airbnb rejection by Miami government

COCONUT GROVE, FLA. (WSVN) - - Protesters have gathered at Miami City Hall, Monday morning, to demand an answer as to why the popular hospitality service Airbnb and their hosts are not prioritized over the Miami hotel industry.

The local rally was held just after 10 a.m., and those hosts that attended sought an answer from Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia.

According to reports, Regalado and Levine have sought to reject Airbnb in their cities, citing that the service disrupts residential living.

“I think Airbnb is a platform that’s allowing middle class people to bridge the gap,” said Teresa Bajandas, an Airbnb host.

The mayors held a news conference after the rally.

“That’s the same argument that, for 40 years, elderly residents from Little Havana, Allapattah and Flagami have been saying about ‘illegal units,'” said Regalado. “You close your garage and you rent to your aunt or to your cousin and the city will go after you.”

Regalado added that if he allows Airbnb to be anywhere, he has to allow anyone to have a rental unit.

“This Thursday, we will be presenting to the City Commission an ordinance that reaffirms that the zoning code of the City of Miami, Miami21, prohibits any kind of commercial activity in the residential areas,” Regalado said.

During the news conference, Levine said that the current $20,000 fine for illegally renting out a unit on Miami Beach is something he would like to see raised. “We’ve increased our fines dramatically, and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure if we have any semblance of proof, and our folks can go after them. We’re cracking down hard,” he said.

In an open letter to both Regalado and Levine, the Greater Miami Airbnb Host Community said:

The typical Airbnb hosts in Miami-Dade earn about $6,000 annually from sharing our homes. We use that valuable income to pay our mortgages and better afford to live in an increasingly expensive region. Please consider changing your stances and instead pursuing clear, fair rules that work for all of South Florida.

Bajandas said rejecting Airbnb in Miami will hurt her’s and others’ bottom line. “Both my husband and I are retirees,” said Bajandas. “Should we not have this opportunity, we would lose the house. We wouldn’t be able to afford living in Miami.”

This pushback comes after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez was reportedly close to endorsing an agreement with Airbnb to sanction the service, allowing renters to pay lodging taxes to the county.

The Airbnb issue will be addressed again Thursday during a City Commission meeting and then later in March with the county.

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