A PROPOSAL FOR RESOLVING THE AIR BnB ISSUE

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^ an Air BnB hotel room : NOT to be coming to your NEIGHBORHOOD if we can help it

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People in Boston have talked for at least a year about the impact of Air BnB on our City’s housing crunch. It’s not a new matter at all. The question has been, what to do about this loss of housing to the short term rental; market ? We’re not concerned about residents who decide to rent out a room to BnB guests — that’s their fright — but about whole buildings of apartments being bought up by investors — or speculators — solely to rent out for very short terms. THAT is the issue that has activists up in arms.

The Air BnB people want you to think that opposition to this new, short-term rental industry is an attack on the rights of homeowners. This, dear reader, is horse effluent.

The company has thrown this bit of garbage at City Councillor Michelle Wu, who has advocated restrictions on short term renting. It’s all over twitter. This too, is horse effluent.

Air BnB’s push-back has garnered significant support, most of it derived from the misrepresentation of Wu’s position. What Air BnB has claimed against Wu is untrue.

End of story.

Perhaps now we can proceed, as the City is trying to do, to propose regulations that will preserve homeowners’ rights while regulating what amounts to illegal hotels and rooming houses.

The City already has a hotel code and a rooming house code. They’re part of the City Ordinances, available online: you can read them, and you should. Thus my proposal is a simple one:

( 1 ) every owner or purchaser of a real property that contains more than four residential units must secure a permit from the City allowing him or her to rent a residential unit for a term less than month to month. An owner who fails to obtain such permit but rents anyway for shorter terms, is in violation of the zoning code provision that prohibits same and is subject to the filing of a housing-criminal complaint, just as would be the case for an owner who violates the state sanitary code.

( 2 ) every property containing more than six residential units shall be deemed a hotel or rooming house, as the case may be, for the purposes of regulating short-term rentals therein, and said property shall be subject to the City Ordinances regulating such properties.

Bed-and-breakfast apartment buildings exist, and are advertised on travel websites, in almost every big city. They provide a much cheaper alternative to traditional hotels: no room service, no housekeeping, just rental of a space. Perhaps these buildings work in other cities. In Boston, however, where housing for actual residents is scarce and ever more costly — as I write, rents approximate about 40 percent of median family income, and home prices equal about 12 times annual income — we simply cannot allow existing housing to be bought up for hotel-like purposes. If such units are to be available, they should be built as such, and in currently less utilized sections of the City — not at all in areas already experiencing rent price surges. Residents may have to compete with each other for housing, but there is no public policy reason whatsoever why residents must have to compete with hotels.

—– Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

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