Airbnb battle coming
Airbnb is running TV ads promoting the societal benefits of its short-term home rental business, the surest sign yet that a bruising battle over regulation of the company and others like it is brewing on Beacon Hill.
The ads feature glowing interviews with four homeowners who are renting rooms to visitors to the Boston area. The people say the money they earn from renting out their homes helps them stay in those homes, and helps address income inequality. Airbnb spokeswoman Crystal Davis said the seven-figure ad buy is part of a general education campaign.
But it seems pretty clear the ads are also an attempt by the company to frame what could become a contentious debate about home-sharing apps on Beacon Hill. House Speaker Robert DeLeo has said regulation of such sites as Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO, and Flipkey will be a priority in next year’s session. Similar efforts in other cities have led to legislative infighting and lawsuits.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Friday that allows officials to fine home-sharing hosts up to $7,500 if they are caught illegally listing their properties on a home-sharing app. Since 2010, it has been illegal in New York to rent out a whole apartment for fewer than 30 days.
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, is worried that short-term rentals are getting out of hand in her city, leading to what is being described as “binge tourism” by rowdy types from across Europe.
US Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her colleagues, Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Dianne Feinstein of California, have called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the home-sharing apps are reducing housing supply in the cities in which they operate and driving up rents.
Even Airbnb’s numbers show the vast majority of the business in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville comes from units that are rented for longer periods. According to the data, 90 percent of the revenue comes from units that are rented 31 days or longer over the course of a year, with a whopping 37 percent coming from units that are rented more than six months.
Against this backdrop of growing concern about home-sharing apps, Airbnb earlier this year practically begged Massachusetts lawmakers to give the business legitimacy by extending the state’s room occupancy tax to short-term rentals. The company seemed to be saying it was OK for the state to tax its business but not to overregulate it.
Gov. Charlie Baker initially said he was on board with taxing Airbnb, but then quickly reversed course, saying he hadn’t read the bill closely. The tax died, as did other bills seeking regulation of home-sharing apps. The issue is likely to come to a head in 2017 when the next legislative session begins.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo says he is open to changing the marijuana legalization law if voters approve it. (State House News)
The head clerk in Easton’s Department of Planning and Community Development was arrested by police at Town Hall and charged with larceny in connection with her role in the town’s employee union. (The Enterprise)
Jessica Valentin, the office manager of the Lawrence public library, is hired as the acting library director even though she lacks a library science degree and has minimal experience. The library board — headed by Mayor Daniel Rivera, who brought Valentin into city government by giving her a job as a special assistant — gave Valentin two years to earn the degree and lose the acting title. (Eagle-Tribune)
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh says former aide and close pal Joe Rull is getting no special treatment now that he’s working as a fixer for developers looking for city approval of projects. (Boston Herald)
Residents of a Framingham neighborhood convinced the Zoning Board of Appeals to deny a permit to construct a 120-foot monopole for a communications antenna on one of two new water tanks, a project backed by the town’s police and fire department as crucial for public safety communications. (MetroWest Daily News)
The director of Fall River’s parks and cemeteries has resigned from her cemetery post as controversy and anger continue to swirl over the cleanup and removal of memorial items from graves amid protests by family members. (Herald News)
Donald Trump backers are running out a new argument to bolster their guy’s chances: The polls are wrong. (U. S. News & World Report)
Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren look like a tag-team for now — but that could change during a Clinton administration. (Boston Globe)
President Obama is planning to make a number of down-ballot political endorsements in state races. (Politico)
Lowell resident — and former MassINC vice president — John Schneider and his daughter, Rose Schneider, who graduated from a charter school, co-author an op-ed on why they’re voting “yes” on Question 2 to raise the charter school cap. (Lowell Sun) Democrats for Education Reform launched an effort to boost support for Question 2 among Democrats, who are breaking strongly for the “no” side, according to the latest MassINC Polling Group/WBUR survey. (Boston Globe) Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone says Question 2 goes way too far. (CommonWealth)
The Globe profiles a New Bedford family that remains loyal to the city’s district schools, despite their problems, and opposes the ballot question that would expand charter schools.
The widow of a state trooper killed when a driver allegedly under the influence of marijuana crashed into his cruiser is speaking out against the ballot question that would legalize pot. (Boston Globe)
Boston city councilors Tito Jackson and Ayanna Pressley say legalization could allow one-time illegal drug dealers to go legit and earn an honest living. (Boston Herald)
In one of the most bitter races in the state, Randy Azzato, the challenger to Barnstable Sheriff James Cumming, has accused Special Sheriff Jeffrey Perry, a one-time state representative and unsuccessful congressional candidate, of stalking one of Azzato’s campaign workers. (Cape Cod Times)
The Herald urges a “no” vote on Question 3, saying the measure to regulate the conditions for egg-laying hens and other farm animals is “an unworkable solution to a problem that is already on the way to being solved in the marketplace.”
Harvard University and its dining hall workers reach a tentative accord. (Harvard Crimson)
Ayer, Shirley, and Harvard approve a zoning change at Devens, setting aside a 45-acre parcel of land for innovation and technology businesses. (Lowell Sun)
Cuba is the fastest growing rental market in the world for home-sharing app Airbnb (see above) since the company entered the communist island’s market following the reduction of trade barriers in 2014. (American Spectator)
Harvard and its striking dining hall workers have reached a tentative agreement. (Boston Globe)
Boston school officials plan to tee up possible cost-saving moves today, including school closures. (Boston Globe) The tiny town of Hampden in western Massachusetts rejects a cost-saving plan to send its middle school students to a school in Wilbraham. (Masslive)
Boston Latin School backs down in the face of student protests from some aspects of the school dress code it was set to enforce. (Boston Herald)
Premiums for some mid-level health plans under the Affordable Care Act will rise as much as 25 percent while options will be dramatically reduced because of insurers pulling out of the exchange. (New York Times)
Officials are seeing an uptick in addicts directly appealing to judges to lock them up in order to receive treatment. (WBUR)
Rep. Michael Capuano wants the US Department of Justice and Federal Transit Administration to investigate whether commuter rail operator Keolis violated civil rights by cancelling so many trains recently on the Fairmount Line, which services several predominantly low-income and minority Boston neighborhoods. (Boston Globe)
Four young men heading back to college after a weekend at home have been identified as the victims of a horrific crash in Middleboro early Monday morning when a Fall River woman driving southbound on Interstate 495 North slammed into their car, killing the men and herself in the fiery crash. (Cape Cod Times)
The New England Council releases a terrific review of the energy landscape across the region written by Peter Howe, formerly of NECN and the Globe and now with Denterlein.
The New York Times Magazine has a fascinating long-read about Maury “Pro” Lerner, a long-ago top baseball prospect from Brookline who never made it to the Major Leagues but made it as a hitman for mob boss Raymond Patriarca.
The Gloucester Times is going to court in an effort to obtain city documents relating to the dismissal of police chief Leonard Campanello.If his goal is to get lots of attention for his new talk-radio gig, score today as a grand slam for Curt Schilling (even if the metaphor is awkward since the guy looked to prevent such things). His sort-of, kind-of, maybe US Senate challenge to Elizabeth Warren lands the Big Lug on the front-page of the Globe. The story is not exactly flattering, but as long as they spell your name right… Meanwhile, Globe columnists deliver a one-two punch, with Kevin Cullen declaring Schilling’s not running for the US Senate but for the circus, and Joan Vennochi calling the one-time Major League powerhouse pitcher strictly a minor leaguer when it comes to politics. Not to be left out, the Herald’s Peter Gelzinis piles on too.
Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos hints at a volume strategy (small payments by lots of subscribers rather than big payments by fewer subscribers) for making money selling the news. (Adweek)