(Asheville Citizen-Times) Property owners renting out homes on a short-term basis, a practice made popular and lucrative through websites such as airbnb.com but which is illegal in most of the city, may find themselves facing bigger fines and other stepped-up enforcement. A majority of City Council members Tuesday said they want to toughen enforcement of illegal short-term rentals because they believe the practice degrades neighborhoods and reduces affordable housing. As defined by the city, short-term rentals are houses let out for less than 30 days where the owner is not staying in the home. Of the elected officials, Councilman Gordon Smith was the biggest critic of the rentals, saying the city might want to disallow them in all areas, including downtown which could be “hollowed out” by the practice. “We don’t want it to become just a place for tourists,” Smith said. Other council members said they weren’t sure about kicking out short-term rentals from all parts of the city. But Mayor Esther Manheimer, Vice Mayor Marc Hunt and council members Jan Davis and Gwen Wisler, like Smith, told staff they want stricter enforcement.

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