Coun­cil, home-shar­ing ser­vices bat­tle over leg­is­la­tion

Ar­gue whether res­i­dents need in­come to sur­vive

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY RYAN M. MCDER­MOTT

City law­mak­ers and the home-shar­ing in­dus­try traded barbs Wednesday over a bill that would set up a reg­u­la­tory frame­work for res­i­dents who rent prop­er­ties for short-term stays via ser­vices like Airbnb.

“Sen­si­ble, rea­son­able reg­u­la­tion is not the en­emy of in­no­va­tion,” D.C. Coun­cil mem­ber Kenyon McDuffie, who in­tro­duced the leg­is­la­tion, said at a public hear­ing.

AirBnB and other home-shar­ing op­er­a­tions took is­sue with the leg­is­la­tion, say­ing that while they sup­port some reg­u­la­tion, the stan­dards set in the McDuffie bill would pre­vent many short-term renters from mak­ing enough money to get by.

“Home shar­ing has been a life­line for many users,” Wil­liam Burns, AirBnB senior ad­viser and a former Chicago al­der­man, said at the hear­ing. “[AirBnB] wants to be reg­u­lated — fairly, rea­son­ably, and in a way that al­lows D.C. fam­i­lies to share their homes to make ends meet.”

Mr. McDuffie and sup­port­ers of his bill say some peo­ple us­ing those ser­vices aren’t strug­gling to get by and are tak­ing ad­van­tage of an un­reg­u­lated mar­ket.

The Ward 5 Demo­crat has the backing of the ho­tel in­dus­try and lo­cal so­cial jus­tice groups that said some bad ac­tors use ser­vices like AirBnB as a com­mer­cial ven­ture, buy­ing up sev­eral prop­er­ties and rent­ing them out at high prices.

“I see in­vestors buy­ing three or more homes and con­vert­ing them into full-time AirBnB homes,” said Valerie Ervin of the D.C. Work­ing Fam­i­lies Party. “They’re treat­ing rent-con­trolled apart­ments like ho­tel rooms.”

Most coun­cil mem­bers at the hear­ing agreed that there should be some reg­u­la­tion, but that it would take some work to make sure ev­ery­one is taken care of.

“We have to fig­ure out how we can reg­u­late short term rentals in a way that makes sense for the city,” said Robert White, at-large Demo­crat.

Un­der cur­rent law, short-term rental hosts are re­quired to ob­tain a busi­ness li­cense like that for ho­tels and other hos­pi­tal­ity en­ter­prises. AirBnB said it does not check whether its hosts com­ply with lo­cal per­mit­ting or zon­ing laws in any ju­ris­dic­tion.

The McDuffie leg­is­la­tion — the Short Term Rental Reg­u­la­tion and Af­ford­able Hous­ing Protection Act — would cre­ate a li­cense specif­i­cally for short-term rentals. Hosts would be re­quired to live at their rental prop­er­ties or be present dur­ing the short-term stays, and no host could reg­is­ter more than one prop­erty for rent.

AirBnB pro­posed that it would be com­fort­able lim­it­ing the num­ber of prop­erty list­ings to three per host.

The bill does of­fer some relief for its on-prop­erty re­quire­ment: Own­ers could rent their units as “va­ca­tion rentals” for up to 15 nights per year with­out be­ing present on the prop­er­ties. Mr. McDuffie said he is open to in­creas­ing the num­ber of days to 25 for va­ca­tion rentals.

Vi­o­la­tors would face fines from $1,000 to $7,000. Half of the fine col­lec­tions will go to the city’s gen­eral fund; the other half to the District’s Hous­ing Pro­duc­tion Trust Fund.

Res­i­dents on both sides of the ar­gu­ment came out in droves to tes­tify Wednesday be­fore the coun­cil.

“This bill would stran­gle the abil­ity of D.C. res­i­dents — many of whom are sim­ply seek­ing to earn small frac­tions of ex­tra in­come by us­ing their big­gest as­set — to par­tic­i­pate in the growth of the District’s bur­geon­ing tourism in­dus­try,” said Cathy Cook, an Airbnb host and Ward 2 home­owner.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.