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.