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D.C. Council votes to limit Airbnb home rentals to 90 days

November 14, 2018

The D.C. Council on Tuesday approved legislation to regulate Airbnb home rentals, beginning in October.

Lawmakers voted unanimously to restrict short-term home-sharing rentals to a homeowner’s primary residence and to limit to 90 the number of days in a year that homeowners can rent their entire house.

The vote was met with cheers from members of D.C. hotel union UNITE HERE Local 25. About 100 of them in red shirts packed the council chambers Tuesday, having endorsed the bill as a means to protect hotel jobs.

Airbnb spokeswoman Crystal Davis called the vote “reckless” in an email to The Washington Times, saying it “is the latest example of the misleading tactics used to pass fiscally irresponsible home sharing policy.”

The home-sharing rental firm, which has disrupted the hotel industry, increasingly is facing scrutiny and regulation in jurisdictions across the country. New York City and San Francisco require Airbnb hosts to register as rental property owners with city officials.

The legislation approved Tuesday is expected to cost the District $104.1 million over the next four years, because if the city enforces its zoning regulations, that would “eliminate nearly all current short-term rentals,” according to an October estimate by the D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt.

The sum includes administrative costs that the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs says it would need to enforce the regulations.

“The reality is that 80 percent of the short-term rentals are illegal,” said council Chairman Phil Mendelson, at-large Democrat. “The Zoning Commission has to recognize that this is a very popular behavior, and it has to be permitted because they’re not going to be able to prohibit it.”

Yukia Hugee, a single mother who lives in Northeast, said the council “stepped up today to help single mothers in protecting affordable housing options.”

Nathan Ackerman, an Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner in Ward 1, told The Times he isn’t “convinced that this will make an impact on affordable housing,” adding that he would have preferred the council “leveraged” taxes from the rentals to provide affordable housing.

About 7,800 D.C. housing units are listed on Airbnb and about 68 percent of those listings are for whole houses or apartments, according to data tracking website Inside Airbnb.

Council member Charles Allen, Ward 6 Democrat, introduced an amendment to add an exemption to the 90-day cap for members of the military and other employees whose work requires long periods of travel.

The amendment passed, with Mr. Mendelson and fellow Democrats Jack Evans (Ward 2), Kenyan McDuffie (Ward 5), and Anita Bonds (at-large) voting no.

Previously, the council had tabled a vote on the legislation over disagreements over how to fund the $24 million price tag next year.

Council member Brianne Nadeau, Ward 1 Democrat, called it a “heavy-handed” approach for the council to provide the funding with hope that the Zoning Commission will comply with the legislation. She noted that the commission acts independently of the council and the mayor’s office.

“We’re behind the rest of the region in having regulations on short-term rental housing,” Mr. Mendelson told The Times, referring to recent regulations in Loudoun County, Virginia, and Montgomery County, Maryland. “There’s a market going on that, under current zoning regulations, is illegal. We’re trying to change that.”

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