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Global News Affecting Vacation Rentals (Not Affiliated With Airbnb)

Richmond, VA Proposes Rule Changes for Airbnbs

BySusan Lane

Dec 7, 2022

The City of Richmond is preparing a major overhaul of its zoning regulations. A trio of proposed amendments to regulations relating to short-term home rentals and accessory dwelling units, as well as minimum parking requirements, are being considered.

City planners presented their draft recommendations to make changes to the regulations in a virtual meeting on Tuesday. They were based on research and community feedback.

Over 700 people attended an initial meeting on August 3rd regarding the three zoning amendments.

The recommendations would remove a primary residence requirement for Airbnb-style short-term rentals of homes, or STRs. Operators must live at the property at least half the year.

Instead, STRs will be allowed in any dwelling within any city’s zoning district, with a distance requirement that separates the unit from another non-primary residence. Although the exact distance between units is not known, planners stated that it would vary depending on lot sizes within a particular district.

Multifamily dwellings that have three or more units may be allowed as STRs, but only one-third or no more than 10 units.

All existing regulations will remain unchanged. STRs are allowed to be used as whole units or individual rooms. There is no limit on how many nights they can be rented. You also have to book one transaction per unit within the same period. A $300 permit must be obtained biennially.

These recommendations call for increased staffing to permit and enforce STR permits. They also recommend adding a fine or penalty for multiple violations and collecting transient occupancy tax.

Operators who rent more than one property have had to contend with the primary residency requirement. Officials had stated that the primary residency requirement was necessary to stop operators from buying multiple properties in residential areas and turning them into mini-hotels.

Staff recommends that one accessory dwelling unit (or ADU) be permitted on the same property as a single-family dwelling in all zoning areas that allow them. A permit would be required to allow additional ADUs on the same land.

Both approvals are required for the use of ADUs as STRs. ADUs can be interpreted as allowing people to age in their own homes, providing affordable housing for those with special needs, and allowing residents to rent out income-generating opportunities.

The recommendation for parking space minimums is to remove that requirement from the ordinance. Property owners would no longer have to provide off-street parking according to the number of commercial or residential units.

Brian Mercer, the city’s planner, clarified that the change doesn’t mean the city will no longer allow parking. It is just not dictating how many spaces are needed for a property. Mercer stated that developers and property owners would make the final decision. They have demonstrated their willingness to go above and beyond what is required to properly serve their projects.

The elimination of minimum parking fees, Mercer stated, is intended to reflect current trends in parking usage, simplify regulatory processes, support multimodal transport, reduce costs for businesses and housing, encourage redevelopment, and encourage the use of city parking lots.

These recommendations call for the expansion of transit and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure such as the GRTC Pulse rapid transport bus line and bike lanes throughout the city. They also recommend that shared parking be promoted, such as opening up office parking decks to support evening users and revising residential off-street parking permit programs.

The zoning changes are a result of years of planning and follow-up on the recommendations in the city’s master plan and the requests made by City Council members. The STR changes to complete a January-led process to revise Richmond’s regulations for Airbnb-style rentals. Most of these are illegal and non-compliant.

The Planning Commission approved in January a resolution of intention to amend and revisit certain rules, including the primary residence requirement. After adopting the rules in mid-2020, the commission was slated to examine amendments.

The recommendations are open to public comment and will be available until January 2, 2023. On the city’s website, you can find a public comment form for feedback. Further meetings regarding the proposals will be held on Thursday and Tuesday. Details are available on the website.

Staff will then prepare ordinances for each proposed change for submission to the Planning Commission. The City Council could adopt them in mid-2023. The city’s planning officials stated that the proposed changes are being considered separately, but could be combined into the planned zoning ordinance revision.

The city is about to begin a two-year-long process to revise the entire ordinance. This effort will update zoning requirements to better reflect modern development trends and goals. The first step would be to create a citywide development plan and frameworks for a new zone ordinance and zoning districts. Next, the process would be followed by the drafting of the new ordinance in its second year.

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