Wu seeks to limit short-term rentals
Amendment to Walsh plan would ban commercial units from Airbnb
BOSTON CITY COUNCILOR MICHELLE WU filed an amendment Monday to the mayor’s proposed ordinance on short-term rentals that would bar investors from purchasing properties and renting them out on platforms such as Airbnb.
Wu’s amendment to Mayor Marty Walsh’s plan would also require people who register their home as a short-term unit to notify neighbors that they will be renting out the house or apartment to transients.
“Boston needs to act urgently to restrict companies from operating de facto hotels out of our city’s housing stock, which deepens our housing crisis for private profit,” said Wu, whose amendment is being co-sponsored by Councilor Lydia Edwards. Edward’s district includes the North End, where residents have decried the proliferation of Airbnb rentals.
Walsh filed his proposal in January to regulate short-term rentals by creating different tiers of rental hosts and limiting the length of time people could rent out their entire home or housing units they purchased for investment.
Under the Wu and Edwards amendment, investment units would no longer be allowed under the short-term rental ordinance. Owners of multi-family homes of three units or less who live in the houses could rent out either their own apartment or another unit in the building but could only rent and list one at a time.
CommonWealth ran a story in January on the spread of commercial short-term rentals, primarily listed on Airbnb. Neighborhood and tenant advocates said a number of buildings in neighborhoods such as the North End and Chinatown were being bought and converted into short-term rental hotels.
The council has until Wednesday to take action on Walsh’s measure. If the council fails to act, the proposal automatically becomes law. The mayor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wu’s amendment also comes as the Legislature appears to finally be taking action on regulating short-term rentals. The House this week plans on taking up a bill originally filed by state Rep. Aaron Michlewitz and rewritten by the Ways and Means Committee. The measure largely is a revenue bill that would levy fees and taxes on short-term rentals, mandates minimum insurance coverage levels, and requires registration and data reporting.
Under the state measure, rental hosts would be classified by three tiers, including residential, which is less than three units; investor hosts, who offer three to five units; and professionally managed hosts who operate six or more units.Michlewitz said the proposal would not restrict communities form further regulating short-term rentals, either by expanding or limiting the definitions.
“We’re empowering cities and towns to determine how best to regulate the market,” said Michlewitz, a North End resident. “What’s good for Boston isn’t necessarily good for the Cape. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution.”