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Homeowners say Airbnb is replacing neighbors with strangers, changing neighborhood culture

Cincinnati homeowners fight rental homes on their streets
Posted: 5:00 AM, Jul 18, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-19 15:09:48-04
Airbnb in Blue Ash (Photo:  Jared Frizzi)

The Ravenwood subdivision in Blue Ash is one of those communities that homeowners say makes Cincinnati so special.

On quiet streets lined with well-maintained homes from the 1970s and '80s, children make sidewalk chalk paintings and play on scooters, empty-nesters walk their dogs, and parents leave front doors unlocked as the kids come and go.

Or — well, they did. As recently as last year, in fact.

Now, as in communities all across the country, neighbors here are at at odds over the issue of Airbnb. Some, like Jared Frizze, believe the gig economy's answer to hospitality is ruining their close community.

Frizze lives almost directly across the street from a home that until last year was owned by an elderly couple. When they moved out, Frizze said, an outside investor bought the property and turned it into a full-time Airbnb rental. Groups of strangers began to arrive, then leave, then arrive again, often coming and going until past midnight.

According to Frizze, "the community is very concerned with the safety and security of our children, and the disturbance this place has caused already." One night, he added, he and his wife counted 18 people entering and leaving the home.

"There's vulgar language; there's partying outside, drinking, smoking," he said. "With children in the neighborhood, that's not what we want for our street."

Another neighbor, Joe McKenna, has lived on the street since his home was built in 1972. McKenna said he moved to this neighborhood specifically because it was a great place to raise his kids.

Airbnb has changed that.

"We came here because of the neighborhood, the quietness," McKenna said. "This is a disturbing situation."

Homeowners getting organized

Margy Waller is an Over-the-Rhine rowhouse owner and leader of a group that has pushed hard for Airbnb regulations in the city of Cincinnati. At one point during her quest for greater local oversight, she said, she counted several dozen rentals in the blocks around her home but could never get an exact fix on how many there were.

"It fundamentally changes the culture of the place," Waller said. "Rather than having neighbors you know, you now have empty rooms, and if you're lucky you have nice transient visitors. Some people aren't so lucky."

RELATED: Mount Adams residents say some Airbnb guests are loud, disorderly

She thinks cities should amend their zoning laws (written long before home sharing was conceived) and limit Airbnbs to part-time home sharing, not full-time rentals.

She successfully petitioned Cincinnati City Council earlier this year and, with the help of Councilman David Mann, was able to get the city to pass an ordinance requiring owners to register their Airbnbs with the city and comply with all local codes.

Waller believes other communities should do the same.

"Let your council members know how you feel about this and what you'd like to see happen," she said.

Jared Frizze and a handful of other Ravenwood residents are trying. They went to Blue Ash council last week, and council members are now discussing options with the city attorney.

Airbnb owners say their fears are dramatically overblown.

Eric Habertheir, head of Cincinnati's Airbnb owners association, said thousands of well behaving guests go unnoticed and leave the community as tidy as they found it. They just don't make the news. Rowdy parties do.

"On occasion you'll find someone who doesn't know how to handle themselves, and on occasion you'll find that with an Airbnb, but it is extraordinarily rare," Habertheir said.

He added people should realize that travelers under 40 want to stay in Airbnbs, not hotels, so this is not a genie that can be put back into a bottle.

"I'm saying that Airbnb is here to stay," he said.

Owner agrees to make changes

Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes has listed James Coddington, a Loveland real estate developer, as the owner of the Ravenwood home since early 2019.

We contacted Coddington, who said he is aware of the party and rowdiness complaints. He provided a written statement in response.

"I am truly sorry for that and immediately implemented additional restrictions to my property," he wrote. "But I have decided to take my property off short term rental as of September 1 and will be looking for a long term tenant."

Frizze and other neighbors are pleased to hear that but worry more Airbnbs may be on the way.

"Right now, there are no laws governing these Airbnb locations here in Blue Ash," Frizze said.

So, like concerned homeowners in Nashville, Tennessee, suburban Washington, D.C, and communities everywhere, he plans to keep up his fight for regulations. He wants his children to have the same kind of safe, quiet community to play in that he did years ago.

As always, don't waste your money.

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