In a unanimous vote, the Boston Zoning Commission voted on Wednesday to force a public process for all Executive Suite occupancy applications. The ruling helps close a loophole in Boston’s relatively new regulations regarding short-term rentals (i.e., Airbnb).
According to the Alliance of Downtown Civic Organizations, only about 20% of units listed on Airbnb have been registered with the City as of late December. Many units are listed as “Exempt”, claiming Executive Suite status.
“The new zoning amendment will help close this Executive Suite loophole by requiring a full public process similar to other zoning variance applications, including community meetings,” said ADCO Chair Ford Cavallari.
Executive Suites zoning was originally created for corporate apartments, but more recently have been used by short-term rental services. An ADCO analysis of AirBnB listings shows that several large operators (e.g. Sonder, Stay-Alfred, Domio) use the “Executive Suite” zoning to establish “fake” hotels by evading the City and neighborhood process that actual hotels must go through.
Preserving housing stock for residents is a key goal of the City’s short-term rental regulations. The new regulations governing short-term rentals (i.e., Airbnb) ban 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.