The Cherry Hill Township Council on Monday unanimously approved an ordinance that if adopted next month would ban Airbnb and other short-term rentals within the township beginning Nov. 1.
Some residents, however, decried the measure, saying it would deprive them of their rental rights only because of ongoing issues in the township with a house once owned by Muhammad Ali.
Officials favoring the ban said it’s needed because Airbnbs and similar businesses are “changing the character of neighborhoods.”
The ban would prohibit the rental of a home — or portion of it — for fewer than 30 consecutive days.
“We’re trying to protect the integrity of the residential zone,” said Erin Gill, Mayor Chuck Cahn’s chief of staff. “Thirty-one days isn’t a long period of time, but it’s long enough that you’ll get people who hopefully ... have more of an investment into staying there, taking care of the home, and respecting the neighbors.”
Council members say they have received many complaints about the disruption of neighborhoods by Airbnbs, particularly by a home on Winding Drive once owned by boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
The house, purchased by Baruch and Ariella Adika in 2014, became an Airbnb in June 2018 and has since been a hub for large events and parties. Police have visited the home 97 times in the past two years, the mayor’s office said, and loud music and traffic issues aggravate the neighbors.
“Our concern is to protect the residents of Cherry Hill,” said Councilwoman Carolyn Jacobs. “And in the case of Winding Drive, our residents are not being protected.”
Around 40 residents, including a few who are neighbors to the Ali home, filled the council room Monday night and lauded the council’s action.
But a handful said the whole town is being punished because of an “anomaly home" and that a ban could make it difficult for some to afford to stay in Cherry Hill.
“There should be other ordinances that can stop these party homes,” said Wendy Kates, who has lived in Cherry Hill since 1999. “To stop someone like me, a 70-year-old woman, that wants to convert a bedroom so that I can pay these taxes and age in my home, it’s outrageous.”
“I have been studying Airbnb for the last year as my last resort to be able to stay in my house,” said Kates in an interview before the meeting. “I’m scared. I’m watching what’s happening in this township and I’m nervous that I’m going to have to go. If this passes, it’s the last nail in the coffin for me.”
Kates, and all senior citizens, would be exempt from the ordinance, as New Jersey law prohibits cities from preventing people 55 and older from renting rooms within their residences, but the senior must live there full time.
Donna Topham, a resident and Airbnb host, says her guests have never been a problem.
There will be a second reading of the ordinance on Sept. 23, with public comment beforehand. If it passes, it will go into effect on Nov. 1. Residents who violate the law could face a fine of $1,000 per day and/or up to 10 days in jail on the first offense, and up to $2,000 per day and/or up to 90 days in jail, for a second offense.
Rena Margulis felt that potential jail time for a rental is extreme.
“Is this not overkill? Could you not have a first warning before you give someone the possibility of jail?” she asked.
There are 70 Airbnb listings in Cherry Hill, according to Airbnb. "We have serious concerns about any restrictions that could hurt the local residents who rely on home sharing for extra income, as well as small businesses that benefit from visitors, and we would welcome the opportunity to work with officials in Cherry Hill to develop reasonable regulations,” said an Airbnb spokesperson.