January 30, 2020
By Matt Miller
This weekend, more than 150,000 people are expected to visit Miami to watch the Kansas City Chiefs play the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV. The biggest sporting event of the year is estimated to bring a $300 million economic boost to the area. And much of that money will be spent on accommodations, which is why the Wall Street Journal recently reported that “hotel owners around … Miami are already scoring big with room rates expected to hit a record for the big game.” Indeed, the Journal adds, the “average daily rate for hotels in the Miami and neighboring Hialeah market is projected to hit between $520 to $540 for Friday through Sunday, the highest ever for a Super Bowl weekend.”
The Super Bowl can only have one winner. But that does not need to be the case for area residents. A $300 million pie ought to offer a slice to everyone. Unfortunately, despite the area’s long history of welcoming tourists, many homeowners in and around Miami will not be able to share their homes with Super Bowl visitors. The hotels win. Homeowners lose.
Nowhere is this more true than Miami Beach, where the government has banned home-sharing in most areas of the city except for a few select carveouts. Not only that, but anyone who dares to rent their home to a Super Bowl visitor is subject to fines that start at $20,000 and quickly escalate to $100,000.
To be clear: These are not party houses. These are just homes that are being rented by the night or by the week. Party houses are dealt with—legitimately—through nuisance ordinances. In Miami Beach, it does not matter how well-behaved your Airbnb or HomeAway guests might be. The government’s stated goal is to make home-sharing so painful, so economically ruinous, that nobody would even dare try it.
Thus, while hotels are charging more than $500 per night, homeowners are prevented from economically benefitting from the Super Bowl. And visitors to the area are provided with fewer options. Since a lower supply of something results in higher prices, those visitors are also paying more than they would if home-sharing were legal. The result is that hotels enjoy a government-created windfall, while local residents are iced out of the festivities. And this occurs despite the fact that 84% of Floridians support legalizing home-sharing.
Fortunately, two efforts are underway to make things better for Florida homeowners. The first is a legal case that is working its way through the Florida court system. There, Miami Beach homeowner Natalie Nichols (who is represented by the Goldwater Institute) has sued the city over its ban and its $20,000 to $100,000 fines. Last October, a Florida trial court agreed with Ms. Nichols and declared the city’s fines to be illegal because they conflict with statutes passed by the Florida legislature. That case is now up on appeal. It should be decided sometime this spring.
The other effort is ongoing at the Florida legislature, which is considering legislation to strengthen protections for homeowners. This legislation follows similar efforts in 2011 and 2014 to preempt cities from prohibiting short-term rentals. Instead, homeowners would have the right to share their homes, subject to regulations of actual nuisances, party houses, etc. This is as it should be. Short-term rentals would be regulated in much the same way as long-term rentals, yet nearby residents would still be protected from nuisances and bad actors.
Sunday will mark the eleventh time that Miami has hosted a Super Bowl—by far the most of any American city. Hopefully, hotels will not be the only economic winners the next time the big game rolls into town.
Matt Miller is a Senior Attorney at the Goldwater Institute.