Mayor Walsh today announced a new proposal for dealing with short-term rentals that would by default bar investors from buying up units or even entire buildings and offering rentals on Airbnb and similar sites.
Under the proposal filed with the City Council for its consideration, investors could still offer units for short-term rental, but only if they could convince the zoning board to grant them approval to switch residential units to commercial - a potentially lengthy process involving public hearings in which nearby residents could have their say.
Walsh's proposal, backed by at-large City Councilor Michelle Wu, who had earlier offered her own proposed regulations, would let occupants of apartments, condos and houses offer space via Airbnb and its ilk under certain conditions:
- Anybody could rent a private bedroom or shared space in the owner's primary residence, provided the owner paid a $25 annual licensing fee.
- Homeowners could rent out their primary residences - for up to three months out of the year, upon payment of a $200 annual fee.
- Owners of two or three-family buildings, in which they live, could rent out one or more of the units they don't occupy for up to 120 nights per year - as well as list their priimary residence for rent at any times, for a $200 annual fee.
The proposal would bar rentals in units that have safety, sanitary or zoning violations altogether.
In the preface to his proposed ordinance, Walsh said he decided to strip out the investor-owned units he would have initially allowed after talking to residents over the past couple of months:
Bostonians want to be able to access the economic opportunities that short term rentals can provide, but they recognize the importance of establishing reasonable regulations that limit certain short term rental uses in a way that protects long term housing from being converted to commercial short term rental use. ... Ultimately, we decided that this type of short term rental use in residential units was not what most Bostonians wanted, so we've removed it from the policy.
In a statement, Wu said:
This ordinance offers reasonable regulations of short-term rentals to close corporate loopholes, protect our housing stock, and stabilize neighborhoods. I'm proud to support this legislation as the Mayor and City Council work together to stem Boston's housing crisis.