- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Property owners in the District profiting from short-term rentals could soon be navigating a raft of regulations aimed at maintaining the city’s supply of affordable housing.

D.C. Council member Kenyan McDuffie this week introduced a bill that would set up a regulatory framework for residents who rent properties for short-term stays via home-sharing services like Airbnb.

“The city lacks a coherent regulatory scheme for short-term rental housing, allowing bad actors to take [affordable] units off the housing market,” the Ward 5 Democrat said. “It is time to create a clear, enforceable legal framework so that those who are exploiting the lack of regulations are stopped, and those who want to practice responsible home sharing can come into the light.”

Under current law, short-term rental hosts are required to obtain a business license like that for hotels and other hospitality enterprises.

The legislation would create a license specifically designed for short-term rentals. Hosts would be required to live at their rental properties or be present during the short-term rental stays, and no host could register more than one property for rent.

However, owners could rent their units as a “vacation rentals” for up to 15 nights per year without being present on the properties.

Hosts who flout the regulations could face fines from $1,000 to $7,000. Half of the money collected from fines will go to the city’s general fund, and the other half to the District’s Housing Production Trust Fund.

The D.C. hotel industry took a particular interest in the bill, saying that home-sharing hosts should adhere to a regulatory framework to monitor the industry.

“It’s unreasonable for short-term rental platforms to operate free of any regulatory structure,” said Solomon Keene Jr., president of the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C. “They’re operating against hotels that already have a robust regulatory structure.”

Mr. Solomon said the association worked with Mr. McDuffie to craft the bill.

An Airbnb spokeswoman said the company favors some version of home-sharing regulation and has been working with the city for more than two years, but the bill Mr. McDuffie has proposed just doesn’t work.

“We look forward to working with council member McDuffie and other policymakers on a smart, straightforward approach, but this current proposal is unworkable and a clear nod to hotel industry-funded organizations eager to attack regular families sharing their homes to protect the industry’s bottom line,” Airbnb spokeswoman Crystal Davis said Wednesday.

An Airbnb fact sheet shows that the typical D.C. host earns $5,800 annually from home-sharing and about 75 percent of D.C. hosts share their primary residences, using the money to pay bills or save for retirement. The company has paid about $12 million in taxes to the city over the last two years, and last year brought in about $290 million.

The District has about 4,247 Airbnb hosts and nearly 700 of them have multiple properties listed for short-term rental, according to Airdna, a website that tracks Airbnb rentals across the country.

The number of D.C. rental units has risen dramatically. In 2012, only 365 Airbnb properties were listed in the city. That number doubled in 2013 and again in 2014. Airdna statistics show more than 6,000 properties listed in the District.

• Ryan M. McDermott can be reached at rmcdermott@washingtontimes.com.

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