Tim Burgess, the former Seattle City Council president who now chairs the council's housing committee, published a blog post this morning promising to do something about regulating Airbnb.
It wasn't exactly Burgess's idea; the suggestion to regulate the short-term housing market originally came out of the Mayor's Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA). The HALA plan aims to have short term housing market regulations in place by the end of 2016.
But here's what Burgess had to say:
Left unchecked, there is concern that online rental platforms, like Airbnb and VRBO, just might provide enough financial incentives to cause homeowners to switch long-term rentals to short-term vacation rentals. The number of short-term rentals available through these platforms has been rapidly increasing and there are now spin-off businesses that make it easier for individuals to manage short-term rentals. At a time when we face a shortage of affordable rental housing, this issue deserves a closer look.
On the other hand, Burgess continued, short-term rentals can sometimes help people afford their existing housing. I wrote about the complexities of regulating Airbnb rentals in a Stranger story published earlier this month. The problem with Seattle's current system is that evicting longterm tenants for short-term rentals may be legal, but whether it’s fair is another matter entirely. If increasing numbers of landlords take longterm housing off the market to maximize profit with short-term rentals, the available longterm housing supply gets squeezed even more than it already is.
So here's how Burgess plans to keep short-term rentals in check:
• All short-term rentals must pay applicable taxes.
• The type of short-term rental that will require the highest level of regulation is: entire units rented frequently that are not the primary residence of the owner. We might consider restricting short-term rentals where the host does not live on-site in residential zones.
• Primary residences rented infrequently may require a lesser level of regulation.
• We must ensure we have a regulatory system that works on the ground. This may require cooperation from the major short-term rental market platforms like Airbnb or VRBO.
Portland has notably directed its tax on short-term rentals like Airbnb to the creation of affordable housing. Sharon Lee, executive director of the Low Income Housing Institute, is asking the Seattle City Council to do the same.