Starting in 2019, people operating Airbnbs and other short-term rentals will pay a new tax in Seattle.
The city council voted unanimously today to levy new per-night fees on short-term rentals. People renting a private or shared room in their house or apartment would pay $8 for every night they rent out their room; those renting out an entire house or apartment would pay $14 per night.
The council was also set to consider a separate but related package of new regulations for short-term rentals today, but sent that back to committee for more discussion later this year. Those proposed regulations include things like new licensing requirements and a cap on how many housing units people can run as short-term rentals.
The new taxes passed today are expected to raise about $7 million a year. The bulk of that money will fund projects in the city's Equitable Development Initiative. That initiative identifies projects meant to support economic development and fight displacement in the Central District, Chinatown/International District, and Rainier Valley. Those who advocate for regulating and taxing short-term rentals, including Puget Sound Sage, say those types of rentals can take housing that would otherwise be affordable off the market, worsening the rental crunch and displacement. Others, like the Sightline Institute, argue against making that link.
Sydney Brownstone wrote here last year about a couple that was evicted from their Pioneer Square apartment and later saw the unit listed on Airbnb for $175 a night. In anticipation of possible new regulations or taxes, Airbnb released a report attempting to deflect criticism that they are contributing to the affordability crisis. The company said 80 percent of Seattle hosts rent out their primary residences.