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St. Louis leaders lean on Airbnb to help stop downtown house parties in short term rentals

Videos show out-of-control crowds in spaces rented from sites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Craigslist.

ST. LOUIS — The videos show hundreds of people taking over a community room at Ely Walker Lofts. In another, a party spills onto Locust Street with people jumping on cars.

It's not just a nuisance, neighbors say these parties are a problem.

"That video did not surprise me in any way, shape, or form," nearby store manager Justin Pilarski said of one of the videos.

"I would like to start by making clear where we stand," Airbnb Director of Trust and Safety Communication Ben Briet said as he stood beside St. Louis leaders Monday. "Specifically: we ban parties in our listings," 

A long-running issue, Briet was there to announce some of the ways the online rental company will prevent future parties, including new rules for Memorial Day and Fourth of July holidays.

"Guests without a history of positive reviews on Airbnb will be prohibited from making one-night reservation attempts. This is both in St. Louis and throughout the United States actually," Breit said.

When Airbnb made these changes last year for the Fourth o July, Breit said their software stopped about 500 bookings in the St. Louis area alone.

But residents have pushed for more, asking the city or Board of Alderman to adopt new rules and regulations like leaders have in other cities.

One measure already on the books that the city can use right now: tax rates. St. Louis City Assessor Mike Dauphin said they are trying to identify short-term rentals and tax owners at a commercial rate that would nearly double the amount they're paying, from 19% to 39%.

Airbnb representatives say they've also started a program with another national rental website, VRBO, sharing the information for party houses between both companies.

"We are not going to tolerate parties, we are going to continue to ban parties and we are going to work with stakeholders here to get to the bottom of this," Briet said.

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