Mayor Walsh Pitches Ban On Investor-Owned Short Term Rentals

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced a proposal Wednesday, May 9, that would effectively ban investors from buying housing in the city for the purpose of renting them out by the night through sites such as AirBnB. This push for regulations has found support in city officials and citizens alike, who have argued that investors looking to cash-in on Boston’s short-term rental boom are causing a spike in housing costs throughout the area.

The proposal, which was filed to the Boston City Council, puts forth a set of conditions for anyone in the city who would like to rent out their rooms on AirBnB and similar sites. Homeowners can rent out both rooms and entire  residences for up to three months of the year. On top of this, owners of two or three-family buildings — who also live in said buildings — can rent out unoccupied units for up to 120 nights of the year; all those who wish to rent out [for longer than 120 nights?] must pay a varying annual licensing fee. Anyone else who is not covered by these conditions, such as investors who buy property but never live in it, would have to apply for   their property to be commercial rather than a residential zone. This process can be lengthy, but Mayor Walsh and his supporters hope it will stop residential areas in heavily affected neighborhoods, like the North End, Downtown, and Chinatown, from becoming short-term rental havens.

“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 protects long-term housing from being converted to commercial short-term rental use,” Mayor Walsh said in the released proposal.

Walsh had originally announced an alternate proposal in January, one that allowed investors to rent out units for up to 90 days of the year. After pressure from housing advocates across the city, the proposal was  amended.

At a meeting on Wednesday, May 16, Boston city councilors decided to postpone a vote on the proposal and schedule a public hearing on Monday, May 21. Councilor Michelle Wu — who had initially pushed for stricter regulations to be set — now backs Mayor Walsh’s proposal.

“This ordinance offers reasonable regulations of short-term rentals to close corporate loopholes, protect our housing stock, and stabilize neighborhoods,” Wu said in a released statement.

Having long been a voice for reforms to help quell Boston’s ongoing housing crisis, Councilor Wu has received the brunt of retaliation from AirBnB and other entities lobbying for these regulations to fail. Earlier this year, AirBnB sent a mass message to its users in the city, attacking Wu by claiming she was bought out by the hotel industry and that her push for regulations would harm middle-class residents. Wu responded to the allegations, calling out AirBnB’s statements as “misinformation” used to try and gain an upper hand in the debate.

Zach Mobrice is an intern at Spare Change News. A native of Rhode Island, Zach studies journalism at Roger Williams University.

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