Jeff Smith says he believes regulating the Airbnb short-term property rental industry is completely unnecessary.

Smith said it seems there is a misconception by residents and local officials as to how the facilities operate, prompting the discussion of stricter oversight and possible licensing of Airbnbs by Columbus City Council.

Airbnb is an online marketing company that helps people book short-term lodging accommodations in hotels, inns, private residences and some commercial lodging properties.

"It's not a party house," Smith said, referring to one of the two Airbnbs rentals -- one on Mohawk Street, the other on Kossuth Street -- he owns with his partner, Stevo Roksandic.

But the city sees things differently. City Council is pondering restrictions of the online resource that involves short-term lodging in residential properties.

Michael Stinziano, a member of Columbus City Council, said too much is unknown about the industry and he believes several issues are at play, including safety, health, zoning, parking, taxation and whether such offerings squeeze out affordable-housing opportunities.

"We are looking to update the code to capture short-term rentals that are captured over e-commerce," Stinziano said.

"Currently, we regulate boarding houses, we regulate bed-and-breakfasts," Stinziano said. "We regulate fraternities and sororities.

"So the challenge is, do we need to do something to address the growth of short-term rentals we've experienced in Columbus?"

Smith says no. He said he believes the system, in effect, regulates itself.

Airbnb is online resource that handles transactions and has developed an online rating system, both for the customer and the host, Smith said.

All booking is done online and renters can read comments on any site posted on Airbnb.

Each host comes up with a price, list of rules for renters to follow and amenities that are offered.

Hosts rent single rooms or entire houses to guests, who view the amenities online and agree to the house rules.

Some hosts open up single rooms and some open entire houses for guests.

Prices vary considerably, ranging from $53 a night to as much as $180, according to Airbnb's website of the top-20 places in German Village, although some of those rentals are in surrounding neighborhoods.

Smith said he sees the stronger, more reputable Airbnbs surviving, where poorer hosts won't.

He said most facilities do not create a parking issue, while some only occasionally do, in much the same way homeowners do when they have a celebration.

The average vacancy rate for Airbnbs is 44.3 percent, according to Mashvisor.com. That's generally lower than an apartment, where renters usually have one car apiece year-round, Smith said -- although, he said, some months are busier than others.

The Airbnb Alliance of Columbus, which formed because of the recent discussions, estimates there are 580 hosts in Columbus, but the figure is hard to pin down because there's no single registry, said Zach James, a member of the alliance and president of the Central Ohio Food Truck Association.

James said he supports some kind of licensing so the city could have a better idea on the number of hosts.

The issue has reached the German Village Society, which assigned the matter to its civic relations committee.

"We don't have a position," said Shiloh Todorov, the society's executive director. "We don't really have much to go on."

Darci Congrove, who owns the German Village Guest House bed-and-breakfast in the historic district with her husband, John Pribble, said she doesn't have a strong opinion on Airbnbs.

"I think our guests value the services that we provide, in addition to having a clean, safe place to sleep, so we haven't really noticed that the proliferation of Airbnbs has impacted our business," Congrove said. "We have guests who have returned to stay with us every year since we started, which is pretty cool."

Stinziano said the Airbnbs "won't be held to the same standard, to some extent, as a bed and breakfast and hotel."

Council has been discussing the issue for a year, but it has yet to come to a vote.

"I think our focus is to get it done right," Stinziano said.

gseman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekGary