Is Airbnb Good for the City of Colorado Springs?

Are short-term rentals (STR) driving up housing costs? Are they destroying our neighborhoods? The answer is NO. Recently, these questions have surfaced; fueled by misconceptions and false data, some people think STRs are bad for our city and should be heavily regulated. This just isn’t true. Teachers, police officers, and military folks rent their homes to better position themselves in a world of economic uncertainty. Families use STRs to afford to travel when they otherwise wouldn’t be able to. STRs have had an overall positive effect on our city and they are worth fighting for.

Recently, we’ve been attending some of the city meetings in regards to STRs. We’ve heard both positive and negative things from neighbors. A sample of the positive include how STRs have bettered the appearance of the neighborhood and elevated its appeal. What I’ve gathered from these meetings is that the negative things we hear about STRs exhibit an air of xenophobia and “stranger danger.” It’s a general fear of people or outsiders. We should push back against this fear. Most people are just like you and me—they want to travel and enjoy the neighborhoods of our beautiful city, just as we want to travel and enjoy their beautiful neighborhoods. I’ve heard time and time again from different people how STRs have changed the way they view travel and people in a positive way. Each person has their own story to tell.

Why shouldn’t we want to share the inside of our homes? As Ashton Kutcher said, “What the people here are doing is focusing on bringing people together and opening our homes and hearts to one another. Unless you can understand the inside of someone’s home, you cannot understand their heart.” I absolutely believe STRs are a xenophobia destroyer. 

There’s also this tendency to apply general human problems and attribute them specifically to STRs; such as noise and the supposed “parties” that happen rarely. We’ve never seen any parties happen at our properties, but when we do, we will let you know.

We wanted to find out exactly how many complaints were received by the city about STRs. They didn’t have an exact number, but stated there was an estimated 10-15 complaints the entire year of 2017. This was out of the thousands of general complaints received by the city, on every topic imaginable. There were around 74,000 stays last year in Colorado Springs on Airbnb alone; translating to about one complaint per 5000 stays().This begs the question; why are they considering an ordinance in the first place? You should decide for yourself, but it doesn’t sound like we have a problem to me. The rare problems that do happen at STRs for some reason tend to receive tons of media coverage, and are not representative of the essence of what STRs are. These “problems” occur just as often if not more with long-term rentals, and should be enforced by current city code and HOAs.

The other pushback we get about short-term rentals is that, “They’re taking away all of our housing!”, “My rent is through the roof! It’s gotta be those damn BNBs!”  For affordable housing, it would be ludicrous to suggest that short-term rentals are driving up housing costs in Colorado Springs. There are around 300 – 500 short-term rentals in Colorado Springs that are not owner occupied. This range excludes STRs that may just rented out for special events such as the Air Force Academy Graduation and families renting their homes while on vacation because the owner would live there the majority of the time. This would mean that for every 1000 homes, you have one STR, approximately. (). There’s also little reason to believe the travel market in Colorado Springs supports a large increase in the number of STRs. Less than 1% of travelers chose an STR over other accommodations when traveling to Colorado Springs. Hotels and Bed and Breakfasts really don’t have anything to worry about. What we have here is a market regulated by supply and demand without the need for government interference. You may be able to make the affordability argument in New York City or Denver areas, but you can’t make it here.

It’s very easy to scapegoat something that you see in your neighborhood and blame something that’s highly visible, such as STRs. What’s hard is looking at the actual underlying issues for why your rent is rising. Rising housing costs are a result of many other factors not related to short-term rentals, such as housing unit building regulations affecting our ability to build housing units to meet the influx of people moving to Colorado Springs.

52% of Airbnb owners are low to moderate income. To over-regulate STRs would be to deny these people a necessary means of earning supplemental income. It would also mean denying low to moderate income families the means to travel and take a day off from time-to-time. A low-income family can’t afford to stay in multiple hotel rooms when they travel, but they can afford one STR that has a kitchen and everything they need for comfortable living conditions. Additionally, the majority of hosts are women in Colorado Springs. Belinda Johnson, COO of Airbnb, puts it best when she says, “Even with uncertainty around the future of work in an increasingly automated world, Airbnb will remain a way for women to achieve greater financial independence and social empowerment in the years ahead.”

Without STRs, we are underserving what I like to call a medium-term stay market, stays that last from 7 to 29 days, in Colorado Springs. Medium-term stays make up about 30% of stays in STRs(). These stays are primarily made up of families waiting to move into apartments and newly bought homes, military temporary duty assignments, and other forms of business travel. I’m in the military and I can tell you how miserable it can be when you’re stuck in a hotel for three weeks on a temporary duty assignment with no kitchen. Imagine a family of five that’s waiting to move into a home or apartment staying in a hotel for 29 days. It’s definitely not going to work. By over-regulating STRs, the city will wipe out a market that’s otherwise not supported by any existing lodging.

STRs continue to provide tax revenue from a travel market that wouldn’t exist without STRs. About one million dollars was brought in by STRs in Colorado Springs in 2017. This does not include the tax revenue generated by ancillary spending in the local neighborhoods by travelers. It might surprise you that STR guests spend 2.1x more than typical visitors and 42% of guest spending is in the neighborhoods where they stayed.().

Our stance on STRs is similar to what the Texas Supreme Court decided on a recent case involving a STR owner and an HOA. Short-term rentals constitute a residential purpose. Visitors eat, sleep and entertain themselves just as anyone would at home. A family eating dinner staying for five days at a short-term rental is no different than a family eating dinner staying for a year at a long-term rental, besides an arbitrary amount of days. A short-term rental is no more a business than a long-term rental is.

We are in support of some regulation of short-term rentals in our city, but a de-facto ban, like a primary-residence only regulation, would wipe out a large percentage of STRs in Colorado Springs. We are in support of an ordinance that:

1) Ensures STRs are accounted for and paying taxes

2) Gathers contact information of STR owners in case of emergency or complaints

The city and STR owners should also focus on owner and guest education.

Anything beyond that would be an over-step of government and would violate our private property rights. Leave it to the citizens of Colorado Springs to decide who and how long someone can stay in their privately owned property.

We urgently ask the people and City of Colorado Springs to look into the facts about STRs before they consider destroy something that’s ultimately a great thing for our city.



  1. Directly from Airbnb
  2. To derive these numbers, you take the total number of listings on Airbnb in Colorado Springs, around 1450. Take out the 567 listings that are shared homes because usually have an owner staying there using their rooms to supplement income. That leaves you with 885 listings that are not owner occupied. With the average yearly earnings for a short-term rental in Colorado Springs being well below $10,000, we can assume that a large majority of rentals are not being rented full time. There is reason to believe that this large majority may only be rented part-time and that an owner is living there the majority of the time; which means that they aren’t taking away from long-term renters. Data sourced from AirDNA.

  3. 17.3% of stays in Airbnbs are 30 days or more.