- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2017

A national home-sharing service blasted a local legislator this week in radio ads protesting a proposal to regulate the short-term rental industry.

Airbnb, which operates in about 34,000 cities across the world, took out local radio ads touting how the service helped Ward 8 resident Jade Moore make ends meet.

“[D.C.] Council member Kenyan McDuffie wrote a bill that will take away from money that I make off Airbnb,” Ms. Moore says in the radio spot, which began airing Tuesday. “If council member McDuffie and the downtown hotels get their way, me and my daughter will either move out of D.C. or let our home go into foreclosure. Why are you choosing big hotels over families like mine?”

Airbnb has been unabashed in its claims that the McDuffie bill is a boon for the hotel industry, and the ad furthers the narrative.

“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,” said Airbnb spokeswoman Crystal Davis.

The ads “express our host community’s perspective on council member McDuffie’s recently introduced bill,” Ms. Davis said in an email.

Mr. McDuffie’s legislation would create a special business license for short-term rental hosts. They would be required to live at their rental properties or be present during the short-term rental stays, and they could not register more than one property for rent.

Hosts could rent their properties as a “vacation rentals” for up to 15 nights per year without being present during short-term stays.

Violators could face fines from $1,000 to $7,000 — half of which would go to the city’s general fund and the other half to the District’s Housing Production Trust Fund.

Mr. McDuffie told The Washington Times that he is disappointed that Airbnb has decided to run misleading ads rather than working with him to make the bill more palatable.

AirBnB would apparently rather leave their D.C. hosts with all of the liability of navigating an outdated regulatory framework while they reap billions in profits for their out of town investors,” said Mr. McDuffie, Ward 5 Democrat. “I am more than happy to work with all the parties involved to make sure that District hosts have a simple, workable process.”

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.

Solomon Keene Jr., president of the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C., defended working with Mr. McDuffie on the bill, saying home-sharing hosts need to be regulated just as the hotel industry.

Hotels are up against a “robust regulatory structure” and short-term rental businesses should be held accountable, Mr. Keene said.

On Tuesday, Airbnb released its 2016 “year in review” for its D.C. enterprise, showing that its home-sharing operation has generated more than $209 million of economic activity in the city.

Hosts earned about $59 million from their rentals and visitors spent nearly $160 million at D.C. businesses, according to the report. Homeowners east of the Anacostia River made about $1.3 million from Airbnb rentals.

Businesses in Wards 1, 2 and 6 benefited the most from Airbnb guests — collecting $29 million, $34 million and $44 million in tourist spending in those wards, respectively. Wards 7 and 8 saw the least amount of money spent at local businesses, with about $3 million spent in each wards by Airbnb guests last year.

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