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Cities Try to Regulate Airbnb in Iowa

A screenshot of rooms and homes for rent in Iowa listed on Airbnb

Airbnb, a marketplace for people to list and rent vacation homes and rooms to stay, was founded in 2008 in San Francisco. Today, there are more than a million listings in more than 30,000 cities around the country. As the service grows in popularity in the state, cities in Iowa including Clear Lake, West Des Moines, Fairfield and Coralville are looking to regulate its use.

"There is a great demand for this type of service. It was founded as a means to accommodate people during large business conventions," explains Art Durnev, a professor of finance at the University of Iowa. 

"Say you go to Las Vegas for a conference and there are no hotel rooms: this was created to meet a need that was not being met by existing hotel chains. Today, it has more than 1.5 million listings. You can rent islands and castles now, and it's available in 131 countries and is the first U.S. company officially doing business in Cuba."

During this half hour on River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Durnev and Scott Flory, city manager for Clear Lake, one of the latest cities in Iowa to form a working group to examine how Airbnb is impacting their community.

We’ll also hear from an Amy Froelich, an Airbnb host in Iowa City who has three rooms in her home listed on the site. She says she has made enough the past two months renting rooms to cover her mortgage and has made some really interesting new people. 

"We get a lot of road trippers, people traveling across the country," she says. Her neighbors so far haven't raised any concerns about her hosting strangers in her home. 

"I think it’s all in how you handle it. We touched base with our neighbors as we were starting this process. They trust us, and we don’t remote host. We block off our rooms if we’re going to be gone. We do have one neighbor who seems a little bit put off, but as she is reassured and sees how smoothly its running, she’s starting to come around."

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River