‘Listen to the people of Starkville’: the peculiar dynamics of (extra-)local political opposition to short-term rental regulation in a small southern city

Authors: Taylor Shelton*, Georgia State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Political Geography
Keywords: housing, real estate, urban politics, short-term rentals, Airbnb, American South
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 22
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

As a growing body of evidence has shown the significant and deleterious impacts of short-term rental (STR) platforms like Airbnb on cities and neighborhoods, municipalities across the United States and around the world have sought to regulate these emerging housing uses. This paper documents the introduction, political contention around, and ultimate defeat of one such effort to regulate STRs in Starkville, Mississippi, a small college town in the American South. Given that Starkville represents a substantially different social and geographical context than many of the places that have introduced and enacted such regulations, the shape of both the regulations themselves and the larger political fight that developed around them represents a significant variation in how these issues have manifest relative to what has been established elsewhere in the literature. Of particular note are (1) the focus of the regulations on neighborhood character rather than housing affordability issues, (2) the centrality of private property rights and anti-government discourses to the debate, (3) insider-outsider dynamics between both proponents and opponents of the regulations, and, finally, (4) the fracturing of local real estate interest coalitions. Ultimately, this paper speaks to the locally-specific ways that STRs have reshaped urban space, housing markets and political dynamics in different places, and therefore provides an alternative set of considerations for those interested in pursuing STR regulations in the future.

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