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The city of Eugene as seen from Skinner's Butte Park. (Connor Cox/Emerald)

Short term rental service Airbnb ranked Eugene number seven on its list of top 20 trending destinations worldwide for 2020. 

The increase was “driven by the city’s reputation as an eco-friendly community and a track and field destination,” and predicted a “spike” in Eugene Airbnb visitors for June 2020, when the city will host the United States Olympic Trials for track and field, according to the press release.

The list was based on the increase in bookings year-over-year “in lesser known and eco-conscious cities and countries across the world,” according to an Airbnb press release from Oct. 17. Bookings in Eugene grew by 213% over the past year.

Jamie Peterson, an Airbnb host in Eugene, said her rental is already booked for the Olympic trials and for the first Ducks Football game next fall. After she and her husband opened their rental in early November, they had 17 bookings and made $1,400 or 1,500 in the first month, which she said covered half of their mortgage. 

Peterson said she is concerned that the Eugene City Council may be trying to drive Airbnbs out of business in Eugene. 

“If all the hotel industry has got the City Council pushing for this, we know we're up against a concern,” she said. “And as of right now, they say that they're going to want to add significant fees and inspection, severe restrictions only allowing, like, a max of 90 nights a year, which would not be enough for our family to continue doing it or most of the families that do this.”

Regarding Eugene’s placement on Airbnb’s list, Peterson said, “I think that the City Council needs to see and hear that.” 

“We're providing the space, and when you have all these cute, niche places to stay, people want to come and check it out,” she said. “When you come and stay in an Airbnb, you're actually getting a taste of Eugene life, of Eugene families.” 

City Councilor Emily Semple responded to the criticism in an interview with the Emerald, saying, “The city is definitely not trying to put Airbnb out of business.”

Semple said the City Council recognizes that Airbnb’s are “a vital source of income” for many, they support the local tourist industry, and some visitors would prefer “a different experience of being in a neighborhood.”

Semple said that the speculation likely came from a previous draft of the ordinance from the City Council that suggested several ideas for changes and restrictions in regulating short-term rentals. Semple said that the City Council heard “a lot more feedback” at a public forum and decided to wait until April or May 2020 to write a new ordinance. She said the City Council would then hold a public hearing and aim to put a decision in effect by August.

More than 20 community members spoke about short-term rentals at the public forum on Dec. 9, according to the city’s website.

“I'm really sorry that things got kind of so blown up,” Semple said. “I didn't really know that much about it when the topic came up, and now I know quite a bit about it.” she said.

To describe the City Council’s view on short-term rentals like Airbnb, Semple said, “In light of all the testimony and feedback we’ve gotten, it’s pretty neutral.” 

Semple named several more arguments the City Council has considered that she said “made sense on both sides.” She expressed concerns that out-of-state companies may buy up housing and use them as Airbnbs, and that noise from crowds or parties may disturb neighbors. But she also said that lodging taxes from short-term rentals help raise revenue for the city and hosting is an additional source of income for people and families that may otherwise be at risk of becoming homeless. 

Semple said that “the hotel industry isn’t really keen about the competition,” but said its representatives “don’t want it to kill it either.” 

She said she thinks that Eugene being a top trending destination this year “adds to the sense of urgency” for a regulation process, especially with the Olympic trials being five months away.