In an effort to prevent commercial enterprises from operating what are essentially unlicensed hotels—and thereby reducing what is already a shortage of affordable housing stock in D.C.— Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie has proposed new regulatory measures about which virtually everyone seems to have an opinion.
As City Paper reporter Andrew Giambrone wrote this week, the bill is intended to protect legitimate home-sharing by D.C. residents, requiring hosts to register their listings and limiting the number and duration of rental bookings for a given unit of housing. The bill would, for example, set a 15-day annual cap on what it calls “vacation rentals”—in other words, rentals when hosts aren’t on site overnight—and put in place procedures for city inspectors to review listings and fine violators.
“This is a major discussion in Ward 7, with a pretty even split between people arguing that it is a great way for lower income residents to make some extra cash and maybe even pay off a mortgage by leveraging their biggest advantage (location in a tourism heavy city), and people pointing out that it can drastically reduce the rental housing stock (because you can usually charge more for an Airbnb than a lease), increasing the cost of remaining rentals,” Horaenaut writes on reddit.
Adds Gumburcules, “Obviously I oppose the blatant abuses like the dude who was Airbnbing an entire rent-controlled apartment complex, but if you own a house and want to Airbnb it instead of rent it, I see absolutely no reason why anyone should be able to tell you you can’t as long as you follow all the D.C. regulations for a hotel/inn/B&B. Does it reduce rental stock? Yep, tough shit. It’s your property.”
But as another commenter points out, legitimate hosts have nothing to worry about. “I’ve no idea, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a decent amount of Airbnb hosts actually support the bill,” writes reddit commenter velo_b. “If you’re hosting and live under the same roof as the room you’re offering, you’re okay and can only stand to benefit. The elimination of fully independent units or full buildings being hosted by developers would reduce competition and thereby raise rates for this subgroup of hosts rather than continuing a race to the bottom. It’s a rent-seeking motive.”
One thing is for sure. The fight over home-sharing regulations is producing the public stage Airbnb craves, while the less-flashy work of preserving affordable housing units remains in the shadows.