Philly Homeowners See Big Opportunity in Upcoming Pope Francis Visit

The City of Brotherly Love is gearing up for an event that will put Kim and Kanye West’s tabloid shenanigans to shame: the Pope is coming to town.

Some Philadelphians are finding a way to benefit from the pontiff’s highly anticipated visit by renting out their rooms, apartments, and even entire homes during the papal visit this fall, on Sept. 25 -27.

More than two million people are expected to descend on Center City during the pope’s two-day visit, where he will be taking part in the World Meeting of Families conference. However, there’s only one small — or big, depending on how you look at it — problem: there are a mere 30,000 hotel rooms in the area, most of which are expected to be occupied by conference attendees.

A recent NAIC national survey revealed that almost half — roughly 48% — of renters did not have an inventory of all their possessions. However, Philadelphia renters and homeowners may soon find themselves taking stock of their stuff as they prepare to open their doors to absolute strangers who need a place to stay during their pilgrimage.

The lack of space creates an opportunity for city homeowners to offer visitors a place to stay for the right price. A survey of offerings posted to Airbnb and Craigslist revealed rates ranging from a cool $9,500 for a two-bedroom apartment in Washington Square West — known to locals as the Gayborhood — to an entire three-bedroom home in South Philly for $3,200.

In addition to renting entrepreneurs, conference organizers are hopeful that more than 10,000 families will show some neighborly love by opening their homes to papal visitors through their sanctioned Homestay program.

There is some gray area, however.

Philadelphia’s city code prohibits homeowners from renting rooms or the entire house without first obtaining a House Rental License from the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections. The cost of the license is $50, including an application which must be processed. Those renting properties with more than four units must first obtain a Commercial Activity License.

Luckily, city officials take a different approach to short-term rentals, such as those for the Pope’s visit.

“If you’re living in the house and it’s a one-time thing, generally it’s not a problem,” Licenses and Inspections Deputy Commissioner Ralph DiPietro explained. “If you don’t live there and you rent it on an ongoing basis, that becomes a problem.”

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