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Apparently like life in Jurassic Park, short-term rentals in Boston will find a way

A city ordinance that makes it harder for people to turn apartments into short-term rentals means investors who want to profit from visitors are looking for new ways to get around the measure.

The Zoning Board of Appeal today deferred action on one landlord's proposal to raze a one-family house in East Boston and replace it with a nine-unit "executive suites" building so that the city law department take a look at the legalities of such a move, specifically how the city can ensure the building stays as short-term rentals, in a zone that allows for them, rather than watching them suddenly get flipped to condos.

The vote to seek legal advice came almost a month after the board rejected one couple's request to let them turn their three-family building, also in East Boston, into a "lodging house" so that they could continue to offer short-term rentals now that they can no longer offer it on Airbnb since they don't live in the building, as required by the city ordinance.

In today's hearing, Volnay Capital, which currently manages about 350 apartments and condos in the area, sought permission to tear down a small house at 125 Addison St., off Saratoga Street, and replace it with a building with nine "apartment-style" units of between 670 and 890 square feet each, and with eight parking spaces.

The company said it would rent out the units to professionals and others who might need to stay in Boston for awhile but would want something homier than a hotel room. The company's attorney, Richard Lynds, said the company has no intentions of ever trying to convert them into condos - and that nearby residents actually supported the idea of executive suites, as long as the units were professionally managed, which he said they would be.

But board Chairwoman Christine Araujo cast a wary glance at that, saying that things sometimes have a way of changing and that it's hard for the city to keep an eye on every single unit.

"I understand the need for executive suites and I think it's long-standing use," she said, adding, though, that she wanted to know "what are the conditions we can place on this to make it work?"

She ultimately concluded, and other board members agreed, that because this is the first project to come before the board like this, the city law department should be asked to look for ways the board can write up a formal approval that includes measures that the building doesn't suddenly change uses in the future.

A neighborhood liaison from the mayor's office opposed the project, saying Mayor Walsh opposes anything that would force out potential long-term residents in favor of short-term rentals. A major point of the new short-term rental ordinance was to keep tenants from being forced out by landlords and investors eager to capitalize on Airbnb rentals by pushing out large numbers of renting residents.

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Comments

Excellent news for people who rent in the city!

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Voting closed 19

I can't quite wrap my head around, "We don't want these to become actual housing units."

Also, it seems the petitioner would have had an easy time getting approval from the mayor's office except that the parcel had an existing housing unit on it. That implies that building new "executive suites" from the ground up will be okay? "

A neighborhood liaison from the mayor's office opposed the project, saying Mayor Walsh opposes anything that would force out potential long-term residents in favor of short-term rentals."

PS This was on the docket today, too.

"Case: BOA-990167 Address: 103-111 Arch Street Ward 3 Applicant: Sonder USA, Inc
Article(s): 8(8-7)

Purpose: To change the occupancy from twenty-one residential units and dental office to twenty-one executive suites and dental office. Also, to renovate."

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Voting closed 22

there's no place like my housing unit.

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Voting closed 26

Housing unit is where the hollow muscular organ that pumps blood is.

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Voting closed 26

Wait, whaat?

The city government that goes through so much effort to limit short-term rentals is WORRIED that someone will build a bunch of them, and turn them back into the long-term housing the city is afraid is being squeezed out?

Someone once told me cities always freak out when someone wants to turn rental units into condos or a big single-family home. And they also freak out when someone wants to turn condos or a big single-family home into rental units.

Someone else told me local politicians freak out at any change in the local demographic. If a project would raise the average income
in their district, or if it would lower it, politicians will do whatever they can to stop it, because any change is a risk to their voter base.

These bizarre theories just might have some truth to them.

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Voting closed 21

Is the high cost of housing traced back to a handful of owners/managers who control this many units?

"Volnay Capital, which currently manages about 350 apartments and condos in the area,"

Does this form a kind of oligarchical monopoly on housing? Would they just fix their own prices to extract as much as possible out of regular people?

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Voting closed 13

Really this is all smoke and mirrors. There are no "executives" renting suites in this area, and the rooms that are there are in motels. Executives and other professionals go stay downtown, not in Orient Heights.

There is also no way to specify that only professionals rent these units, nor will the City ever follow up with how exactly the units are rented. This will be an AirBnB.

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Voting closed 11

Take a look a street view, right next store to this one!
Zoom in on the sign.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/121+Addison+St,+Boston,+MA+02128/@42.3855248,-71.0168392,3a,75y,203.37h,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sYhpAP21EjYyrUOuVsPPf1g!2e0!7i16384!8i8192!4m5!3m4!1s0x89e371cd022567df:0x398ad295eba10e9a!8m2!3d42.3853073!4d-71.016962

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Voting closed 11

And all of my points still stand.

Just because you call something executive suites does not mean executives or professionals will actually stay there.

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Voting closed 18

The single family next to this, which was very well maintained, was torn down and replaced with "executive suites." Maybe that was approved before the current AirBnb regs came into effect? Is there something in the zoning that would allow for executive suites but not for apartments or condos? If not, I can't see why there's such great concern. The only thing I object to is the inclusion of 8 parking spots. Bennington Street is well-served by the 120 and it's not that long of a walk to the Blue Line.

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Voting closed 9

Everyone: There's a huge housing crisis in Boston

Volnay Capital: Awesome, let's make it worse!

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Voting closed 8