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Fischer: Airbnb Owners Should Be Barred From Discriminating

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Louisville Metro Council members are questioning whether local anti-discrimination laws should apply to property lessors using services such as Airbnb.

The council's public safety committee is hashing out details of an ordinance that would regulate short-term rentals, such as those featured on the popular site.

At a committee meeting last week, Councilwoman Julie Denton, a District 19 Republican, said people making their homes available as short-term rentals "should have the ability to say who stays there."

But other council members say the provision Denton is proposing could open the potential for discrimination based on race or sexual orientation. She added that in a "perfect world," short-term lessors would not discriminate.

On Friday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said no kind of discrimination has a place in the city, including for short-term rental property. Fischer told WFPL News if property owners advertise their homes for rent, they should be available for everyone.

"We have to draw the line on anybody's ability to discriminate," he said. "There should be no discrimination."

Metro Councilwoman Jessica Green, a District 1 Democrat, agreed. She said if a property is advertised it should be open for anyone, regardless of an owner's bias.

"If you come out to play, you should be ready to play with anybody," she said. "It's a cost of doing business."

Committee chair David Yates, a Democrat who represents the council's 25th District, said current law covers most housing and some business situations. City law mandates that no person can be discriminated against based on race, color, religion, national origin, familiar status, age, disability, sex, gender, identity or sexual orientation as it relates to employment, housing, public accommodation, resort and amusement.

"It's a safeguard of all individuals in Jefferson County from discrimination, in certain contexts," he said.

But whether short-term rentals fit within that context is not yet known.

Green said she is worried that even if the local Fairness ordinance applies in the case of short-term rentals, it would be difficult to enforce. She said tracking discriminatory advertisements for short-term rentals would be easier than determining discrimination as it relates to the actual renting of properties.

"I'm not really interested in ordinances without any meat and without any bite, that we can't do anything about," she said. "I want to be able to hold people accountable."

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.
Jacob Ryan joined LPM in 2014. Ryan is originally from Eddyville, Kentucky. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.