The Boston City Council voted 11-2 on Wednesday to regulate short-term rentals (i.e., AirBnb, Homeaway, VRBO, etc.), supporting a bill close to the Mayor Walsh’s amended guidelines.
The ordinance bans short-term rentals from non-owner occupied buildings, eliminating investor units and absentee Airbnb landlords. Owner-occupants may continue to list their own unit, a part of their unit or an adjacent whole unit in their building as a short-term rental for 365 days per year. One change from the recently debated version removes a 120 day restriction on homeowners in 2 and 3 family houses. Those owners will be able to rent nightly for as long as they wish.
Mayor Marty Walsh is expected to sign the ordinance shortly.
“I look forward to signing this legislation,” said Walsh, “And, I am committed to monitoring the impacts to ensure it serves its intended purpose in our neighborhoods.”
District 1 Councilor, Lydia Edwards, (North End, Charlestown, East Boston) has been a vocal advocate in favor of the regulations.
“This legislation balances the rights of homeowners to earn supplemental income with protections for housing stock under pressure from the investor-owned segment of the short-term rental industry,” said Councilor Edwards. “By preventing loss of traditional rental units to short-term rentals, the ordinance will supplement citywide efforts to preserve housing units and increase housing stock through new construction.”
The vast majority of the council supported the new measures other than opposing votes from Councilors Frank Baker (Dorchester) and Mark Ciommo (Allston, Brighton).
The bill also creates a public registry of short-term rental units. Exempt from the regulations are commercial hotels, bed and breakfasts and corporate housing. There will also be a grace period for non-owner occupied short-term rentals through September 2019.
Short-term rental companies have lobbied aggressively against the new regulations and spoke out against the council vote.
“The new ordinance unfortunately creates a system that violates the privacy of our hosts, and prevents Boston families from making much-needed extra income in one of the country’s most expensive cities,” said Airbnb. HomeAway/VRBO, owned by Expedia, also issued a strongly worded response saying the ordinance “will have dangerous consequences for Boston’s travel and tourism economy.”
Boston’s North End has been one of the hardest hit neighborhoods by short-term rentals. As of this writing, there are currently 185 North End rentals listed on Airbnb alone (link), primarily in investor owned units. In a recent investigation by the Alliance of Downtown Civic Associations and published by Commonwealth Magazine, one fake Airbnb host “Anthony” had over 40 listings in the North End, seeded by a local realtor to a New York agency.