Hamilton hears from opposing sides on short-term housing rental program changes

Council expected to vote on issue in June meeting.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Many residents of Highland Park do not want to have any short-term rentals in the historic neighborhood, but a possible outright ban in the 600-plus home area, some said, “sets a dangerous precedent.”

Hamilton city staff members have proposed updates to the short-term rental license program, which began in 2020, as some residents have become vocal and nervous since the summer of 2023. The changes are not widespread because there were not widespread concerns or support when the city put out a survey last year.

Director of Community Services Liz Hayden two weeks ago described the lack of response as “indifference” to the issue, however on Wednesday, those passionate about either side of short-term rentals, specifically in Highland Park, voiced their concerns.

Sam Scott, of Wellington Court, believes it “sets a dangerous precedent” by banning short-term rentals in Highland Park as it “infringes on the rights of private property owners within the city.”

He also said the concerns others have expressed, which range from noise complaints to potential crime, are covered by existing city laws and ordinances.

“The city has experienced an expanded need for short-term housing,” the homeowner said. “I fear that prohibiting on a basis starting in Highland Park sets a dangerous precedent, pushing those out-of-town visitors out of town. As an Air BnB and VRBO guest (in other towns) myself, once I leave town and once I’m near my Air BnB, I’m going to patronize the local pizzeria near my Air BnB, I’m going to patronize the businesses near where I’m staying ... and I expect the same is going to be true for future short-term renters in the city.”

Some short-term rental property owners and managers, who do not own properties in Highland Park, expressed concerns.

Highland Park residents Joe Nagel, Greg Irwin and others said Wednesday they want to protect the unique things about the neighborhood, which was established more than 100 years ago. Nagel said the neighborhood’s founders established “a residential oasis.”

“Short-term rentals, for all of their positive points, can pose a threat to the integrity of this vision now shared by the first residents’ successors to hold fast to the residential character of our unique neighborhood,” he said.

A survey of residents showed that about half of the homeowners wanted to have a short-term rental ban. There are 664 households in Highland Park.

Irwin said he believes the short-term rentals are essentially hotels in residential neighborhoods, and short-term rentals adversely affect the residential character of the neighborhood.

“A neighbor is invaluable and an AirBnB takes that out of the neighborhood. It’s a stranger,” Irwin said, adding that he’s not against AirBnBs, “I love AirBnBs; I’ve stayed at them from Nashville to Anaheim to Shanghai.”

But he doesn’t believe neighbors in Highland Park wants to live next to an AirBnB.

Short-term rental and long-term rental owner Jay Cox said he and his wife, Robin, have had “zero issues” and “zero complaints from neighbors” from the properties they own and operate in Hamilton.

“The fear and lack of facts shouldn’t drive the creation of bans or regulations that are unwarranted,” he said, adding that those people renting short-term rentals are typically former Hamiltonians coming back for family or events.

Robin Cox said nearly a third of the stays in May have been Miami University parents and former Hamilton residents visiting family, nearly 20% were in town because of Spooky Nook, and nearly a quarter were work-related stays.

“We have a lot of weekend (stays), but we have a lot of people coming for the week for work or family,” she said, adding when people are not staying at the property, cleaners are usually on-site getting the home ready for the next renter.

Amber Larkin said she’s invested more than $4 million in long-term and short-term rentals in Hamilton, and said she believes in the city. She said these properties are helping bring people to the city and spending money in Hamilton.

“Those of us who care and live here, I promise you, I’m in it for the business. If my business did not make sense, if I’m not making money in Hamilton, why am I here?” she said.

Hickory Woods is a subdivision in the city that has also requested a formal ban on short-term rentals in its 74-home community. There are five short-term rentals, but Hickory Woods HOA president Marilyn Tunnant said the purchases of those homes went against the rules of the community and in litigation.

Hamilton Council is expected to consider the licensure updates at its next meeting on June 12.

About the Author