Councilors want to bar investors from renting out units on Airbnb and similar platforms

CommonWealth reports that City Councilor Michelle Wu (at large) and Lydia Edwards (Charlestown, East Boston, North End) want to amend Mayor Walsh's proposed short-term-rental ordinance to bar investor-owned apartments and condos from the short-term market. Walsh's proposal would let them rent out units for up to 90 days a year - which Wu says is effectively 45 weekends a year.

The city council has to vote on Walsh's proposal and possible amendments by tomorrow or Walsh's proposal becomes law as is.

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Ban investor AirBnb units

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We have a housing crisis. Bostonians are forced out. The government is supposed to represent Bostonians, not foreign investors.

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45 weekends is too much.

I have no idea how you detect an investor owned apartment. But this short-term rental thing is killing affordable housing. There are so many people with Section 8 certificates that can't find anywhere to live.

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Make it illegal, then serve a warrant on AirBnb

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Then compare a database table of AirBnb names and addresses with a table of primary residence names and addresses. Manually go through what the database software didn't match automatically, and confirm which are not primary residence. Send them a letter or summon them to court.

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Suspect

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You are assuming that if they put them on the market for longer term leases that the rent would be “affordable”. I think our housing issues are way deeper than Airbnb. The commenter below who suggests a limit on the number of properties that can be listed by an individual is spot on. We should not be prohibiting someone who relies on renting a room or an in law suite for income from doing so. I suspect that the city won’t actually enforce the law in this way anyway, but that just creates cronyism.

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Room

Most of the regulations exempt room rentals and owner occupied (primary residence) so they don't hurt someone who'd rather have an AirBNB and not a housemate.

The problem are people who buy up properties for the sole purpose of putting them on AirBNB. If you can regulate the max number of "whole apartment" rentals to a low number you can stop these sorts of deal (somewhat).

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That guy in the Back Bay

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The one who claims that "most" of his units are "tough to rent" because they are on the first floor or basement units?

Oh yeah ... riiiigggghhht. He's taken the most affordable units off the market.

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supply and demand

If more apartments were available for normal leases, the rent prices will go down and the hotel prices will go up. Make leases a minimum of 90 days.

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Bad move

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Wouldn't it make more sense to throttle Airbnb by taxing the hell out of it, than to propose a plan to indirectly throttle it by underutilizing available housing which is already in short supply?

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no one police's it anyway

Unless they go after the Airbnb and other websites for doing this it is a waste of time, because no one monitors who rents what.

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No-one monitors it... now

If the city decides to act against the short term rental companies, it wouldn't be hard to monitor listings on the major sites right down to the address and then act accordingly. If the concept is to figure out the policy first and then start acting on those policies, what is currently being done isn't relevant.

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I like this idea

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but the city's enforcement of existing ordinances is TERRIBLE. How many unshoveled sidewalks did you see this winter? How many cars do you think you'll see blocking the box on your way home today? With odd exceptions (hi, Licensing Board! How many linear shelf-feet of liquor do these AirBnBs have?), the city can't get out of its own way.
Regulations with no regulators are an empty gesture; I want to know how they're going to crack down on violations as part of the proposed changes to the law.

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AirBnb already encodes local

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AirBnb already encodes local laws (taxes, restrictions) into its platform.

A unit owner could split their rental between AirBnb and, say, VRBO to try to circumvent the limit. Then it would be up to the city to request reporting from each platform and conduct enforcement.

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If the goal is to prevent

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If the goal is to prevent "Airbnb hotels", I think it would make sense to limit Airbnb listings to one unit per host. This would give people the opportunity to make some extra money from a property they own, either their primary or secondary residence, but would limit people buying multiple properties for the sole purpose of listing them on Airbnb.

The most common scenario I see when I travel and use Airbnb is where there is a couple and both individuals own their own units, so they list one of them on Airbnb when they're not using it.

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Or...

We could overhaul the federal tax code so that it doesn't disproportionately reward shelter profiteering.

But that would require actual work. I'm not confident that this cadre of advocates for sunblock and plastic bags has the desire or the intellectual fitness at a flat guaranteed salary to come up with an actual solution which benefits all citizens and visitors.

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The Hub...

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So our local goverment is too busy with plastic bags and sunblock to overwrite federal tax code? I must have forgot the fourth branch of government: Executive ,Legislative, Judicial and Boston City Council.

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You see...

Boston is in Massachusetts, and Massachusetts has people who represent it in the legislative branch.

Maybe the likes of, say, Matt O'Malley, who appears to do nothing productive for what he gets paid, could have a conversation with the equally ostensibly useless Ed Markey about what changes could be made to the federal tax code, which is a thing that Ed Markey votes upon.

Frankly, I think the better idea is for Massachusetts to disaffiliate from the rest of America...but that's just me.

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stricter fines/laws?

Maybe if you get caught renting you should lose your home outright. I mean if you have enough money to live somewhere else and illegally rent out your unit you should have enough money to get by anyway.

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In other places that's

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In other places that's "squatter's rights". You either use (i.e. occupy) your land, or lose it. At first glance to the American mind it's backwards and nonsensical and amounts to stealing, but it does have its merits. It encourages homeownership, by making all housing owner occupied by definition.

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I feel like they are making

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I feel like they are making this way too complicated.

Anytime a unit changes hands it is supposed to be inspected. Enforce this and once you get that under control target the number of turnovers not the number of weekends or weeknights. If someone is in town for 1 year is that short term or long term? 9 months? Maybe this is all in the legislation but all I hear is AirBnb and no mention of when other entities rent for short periods of time.

Some people actually use AirBNB for long short term rentals like Doctors doing a residency at MGH. It would be silly to suggest that a Doctor staying in a place for a year should stay at a hotel instead.

They need to stop focusing on the brand and start focusing on the actions being taken. When they just use the blanket term over and over it is like saying lets ban Tupperwear when you mean lets ban large bins with sealable tops. If you just say Tupperwear you end up banning all sorts of random things while still letting other large bins with resealable tops slide by.

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Or...

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Instead of arguing about which legitimate use for an apartment is more important and then banning everything else, we could actually upzone some of Boston’s many single family residential neighborhoods and actually build enough housing so that we don’t have to choose. Tokyo manages to have a thriving AirBnb market AND stable, affordable rents. What do they do differently? They build a LOT of housing.

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wow

I didn't realize there was much actual single family zone till I looked at the zoning map. Melville street is all single family zoned but I can see that a number of them have apartments and condos. These are reflected on Assessor's report. Does that mean they got zoning variances? or were they grandfathered in?

Also, that accessory apartment thing might be a incremental step in the right direction.

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