Tourism & Cruises

Airbnb strongholds: Miami, Fort Lauderdale home to half of all Florida rentals

Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks in San Francisco on April 19. In Miami, the service is under scrutiny from hoteliers who feel the business should be regulated in the same way hotels are.
Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky speaks in San Francisco on April 19. In Miami, the service is under scrutiny from hoteliers who feel the business should be regulated in the same way hotels are.

Home-sharing platform Airbnb has received a warm welcome in South Florida, home to nearly half of the entire state’s offerings, according to data Airbnb released Wednesday.

Citing heavy interest in Florida metrics Wednesday, Airbnb released a breakdown of its performance in the Sunshine State for the first time. The data is the most in-depth set of metrics the platform has released on any state.

Of the 16,100 Floridians who shared their homes, or a room in their homes, via the site in 2015, about 49 percent — or 7,910 — were based in the Miami and Fort Lauderdale area. South Florida hosts also made more money: an average of $8,740 last year, higher than the state average of $7,200.

More than half of Florida visitors who stayed in an Airbnb in 2015 overnighted in Miami or Fort Lauderdale — 408,800 out of 754,000 total Florida visitors.

“This data demonstrates the ways home-sharing is creating economic opportunity for thousands of Floridians, while also bringing more people to the Sunshine State to support our largest industry: tourism,” said Michael O’Neil, Airbnb’s regional head of public policy, in a statement.

$8,740 Average amount a Miami or Fort Lauderdale Airbnb host made from selling a unit on the platform in 2015

While only responsible for hosting a tiny fraction of Florida’s visitors — less than 1 percent of the state’s more than 105 million overnight visitors in 2015 — Airbnb has come under scrutiny from hotel groups in recent months, who say the platform isn’t regulated and taxed the in the same way as other lodgings. Opponents argue that while Airbnb acts like a transient rental, it does not pay the same taxes as hotels. Those revenues are used to market the state’s tourism industry.

“The true measure of how we are doing in our business is from an occupied hotel, from which is where you collect your tax from,” said Stuart Blumberg, former head of the Greater Miami and the Beach Hotel Association. “You’ve got a company that’s got people signing up ... that doesn’t pay a bed tax.”

 

In Florida, Airbnb collects and remits the statewide transient rental tax and sales tax, as well as county-level tourist taxes in 27 counties — excluding Miami-Dade and Broward counties. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office said Airbnb has submitted a proposal for the collection of the county bed tax. The county will “more than likely” be counter proposing, said Gimenez’s communications chief Michael Hernández.

Settling the tax issue is the county’s priority, Hernández said. The next step would be regulating hosts who offer their properties for rental.

In Miami Beach, regulatory issues have caused safety, cleanliness and zoning concerns from residents who have complained that neighbors rent out their properties despite living in areas where short-term rentals are prohibited.

Unit hosts are well aware what they are doing is illegal.

Andrea Levinson, member of the board of directors of the Bridgewater Tower condominium in North Bay Village

Miami Beach bans the practice in all single-family homes and allows it in multi-family buildings only in specified areas. Fort Lauderdale limits the number of guests. Key West recently cracked down on home-sharing, requiring licenses for rentals lasting less than 30 days.

Andrea Levinson, who sits on the board of directors of the Bridgewater Tower condominium in North Bay Village, said illegal Airbnb rentals have created a “nightmarish” situation for legal unit owners and renters.

“Unit hosts are well aware what they are doing is illegal when they pass off the unit keys and garage fobs in third party locations or instruct the Airbnb guests to avoid passing through our lobby security since ‘the concierge is so busy.’” Levinson said in an email in late May in response to a previous Miami Herald article on Airbnb. “Illegal guests that we catch are barred from building entry and escorted off the property, vacation rental dollars paid in advance now lost.”

In May, a report by the American Hotel & Lodging Association claimed that the proportion of hosts who are using the platform as a commercial business is increasing. At the time, Airbnb said the data was flawed because it reflected properties that are listed as “available” on the site when in reality they are not. Availability is confirmed by the host when someone attempts to book a lodging.

The new data released Wednesday gives more insight into how hosts are using the platform.

In Florida, the average host rented his or her space for 41 days. In Miami and Fort Lauderdale, the average rental time was among the highest in the state, at 45 days. And, while statewide Airbnb has grown exponentially, at an average of 149 percent in 2015, growth seems to be leveling out in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, where the platform has been more popular, increasing by 120 percent in that same year. That the was lowest increase in the state.

This data demonstrates the ways home-sharing is creating economic opportunity for thousands of Floridians, while also bringing more people to the Sunshine State to support our largest industry: tourism.

Michael O’Neil, Airbnb’s regional head of public policy

Locals who support the platform’s growth cite its similarities with sharing-economy cousin Uber, which earlier this year reached an agreement with the county over regulations. went to bat with the county over regulations.

“Seems to me the more options for lodging, the better,” said David Auslander of Miami, a member of the Miami Herald / WLRN Public Insight Network. “In the way Uber will finally force modernization of our clownish taxi cabs, Airbnb will raise the level of hotels.”

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