Mayor Walsh proposed a citywide ordinance today establishing guidelines and regulations to regulate short-term rentals, i.e., Airbnb. Most notable is a 90-day limit for residential units rented via Airbnb and other similar sites. While details are in flux, only commercially zoned properties(i.e., hotels) would be able to exceed the 90-day limit. City officials believe this will keep more apartments as long-term rentals, stabilizing the housing stock.
Boston’s North End has been “Ground Zero” for short-term rentals with hundreds of units listed on sites such as Airbnb during peak tourist season. Recently, Commonwealth Magazine reported that corporate entities are gobbling up dozens of units and using fake listing identies like “Anthony” and other pseudonyms. [See more coverage on short-term rentals.]
Similar to the plan previously proposed by State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, the Mayor’s proposed ordinance takes a three-tiered approach to classifying short-term rental units:
- Limited Share Unit: consists of a private bedroom or shared space in the operator’s primary residence, in which the operator is present during the rental. The fee associated with this classification is $25 per year.
- Home Share Unit: consists of a whole unit available for a short-term rental at the primary residence of the operator (unit in which operator resides for at least nine months out of a 12 month period). The fee associated with this classification is $100 per year.
- Investor Unit: consists of an entire unit available for a short-term rental in a whole dwelling that is non-owner and non-tenant occupied. The fee associated with this classification is $500 per year.
New City Councilor for District 1 (North End, Charlestown and East Boston), Lydia Edwards, said the proposal is the step in the right direction, while expressing concerns and advocating a “balanced approach.”
“The Mayor’s decision to regulate short-term rentals in Boston is a welcomed start to a necessary discussion about protecting our housing stock,” said Edwards. “The devastating impact of short-term rentals can be seen city-wide and is exasperated by absentee landlords and multi-unit owners. I hope we get a balanced approach that returns the short-term rental market back to its original intent of providing supplemental income to residents living at the property and provides a way to hold hosts accountable to their neighbors.”
While State efforts to pass legislation have faltered, the North End’s Rep. Michlewitz supported the city’s proposal. “The mayor and his team have struck a good balance between allowing the short-term rental market to continue to provide alternative means of occupancy, while putting any further growth in the hands of the local community process by forcing anything over 90 days to have to change usage from residential to commercial,” Michlewitz said in a statement.
With the filing, the Mayor’s proposed ordinance goes to the Boston City Council for debate and approval. Some councilors, including Michelle Wu are expressing concern and questioning why an “investor” class should exist for absentee landlords. Wu points out that the 90-day limit would still allow a property owner to use Airbnb for 45 weekends a year.
Correction: This article was updated on January 23, 2018 to clarify that a 90-day limit applies to all residential units whether owner occupied or investor (absentee landlord). Only commercial use (i.e., hotel) properties would be allowed to exceed the 90-day limit. Please also note that this is a proposal that could be significantly changed as it goes through the city ordinance and state legislative process.