To protect affordable housing, DC bill aims to limit short-term rentals

How D.C.'s proposed short-term rental law could affect you (WTOP's Megan Cloherty)

WASHINGTON — A D.C. lawmaker is putting the final touches on legislation that would change how homes are rented when homeowners are on vacation.

D.C. Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie’s Short-term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2017 moves forward in September and aims to limit owners to only renting the home they live in as part of an effort to protect affordable housing in the city.

“The bill is not to prevent home sharing in the District. We’re trying to make sure commercial operators don’t overtake what’s left of affordable housing stock in the District,” said Valerie Ervin of Working Families, which supports the legislation.

But it puts regulations in place that will limit residents, such as Dia Michaels, who is renting out a second property.

Back in the 1980s, Michaels and her husband bought a home near the Marine Barracks in Southeast and began renting it out to vacationers after they moved to a bigger house.

“Five and a half years ago, my husband was being treated for cancer, and in the second week of the treatment … he had a massive stroke. And as you would imagine, everything changed,” Michaels said.

Calling it a “godsend,” their rental home became their main source of income. In reaction to McDuffie’s legislation, Michaels is a co-chair of the DC Short Term Rental Alliance, a group of concerned citizens who have a stake in the legislation’s outcome.

Rental companies like HomeAway and VRBO are working to change the cap on properties per owner, but Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said that a housing constraint has been done before.

“We want to limit hosts to one home — just the home you rent. The basic premise is if a city has a housing constraint — [like] San Francisco and New York City — we want people to rent the homes they live in and not take units off the market,” Cheskey said to Fortune Magazine.

Introduced in January, dozens of residents and interested parties attended the bill’s public hearing in April. Perhaps the most contentious issue is the 15-day rental limit in the legislation. McDuffie’s communications director Nolan Treadway said McDuffie is willing to negotiate on how long residents can rent their home.

“Our biggest concern is that it makes that whole home, that responsible renter, that traditional vacation community illegal here for the future of the city,” said Philip Minardi, director of policy communications for HomeAway.

The average traveler is a 50-year-old female traveling with a family of four, according to Minardi, who wants the experience of renting a home to cook, bring her pet and share a space with family and friends.

“Traditional whole home vacation rentals make up .03 percent of the broader housing mix. So that means vacation rentals that have been here really don’t have a detrimental affect on housing stock or housing affordability,” Minardi said.

Ervin disagrees.

“McDuffie’s bill is doing nothing more than codifying the law as it currently exists,” she said.

In September, the councilmember’s office said, the bill will go to committee for a markup and is expected to get a first vote next month as well.

In a statement to WTOP, Councilmember McDuffie said: “We have received a lot of feedback since introduction and at the hearing on issues ranging from party houses, public health and safety, and the 15-day limit on home-sharing while the homeowner is away from their residence. I am open to revising the bill, including the 15-day number, as the bill makes its way through the legislative process, so that we can find the right balance for the District of Columbia.”

This story was updated to include a statement from Councilmember McDuffie that was sent after the story was first published.

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