Short term rental rules wanted by DC voters, survey finds

WASHINGTON — Community members who support strict regulations for short term rentals in D.C. asked lawmakers on Monday to approve a proposal they believe will protect neighborhoods and affordable housing in the city.

The Short-term Rental Regulation Act of 2018 could be considered by the D.C. Council on Tuesday. As approved on a first-reading on Oct. 2, the bill would allow homeowners to offer short-term rentals only from their primary residence for 365 days a year if they are present on the property and for up to 90 days total in a calendar year if they’re away from home.

“According to a recent survey conducted by Axis Research, 86 percent of D.C. voters support this legislation,” Lauren Windsor of AirbnbWATCH said.

The D.C. Federation of Civic Associations believes that property being used for short term rentals is monopolizing affordable units, causing prices to rise for long-term housing and forcing residents out of the city in search of affordable housing.

“Put an end to these commercial operators buying up the available D.C. rental units,” D.C. Federation of Civic Associations president Graylin Presbury said. “This displacement must stop.”

Windsor said a recent AirbnbWATCH analysis shows that the D.C. short term rental bill would return more than 5,500 homes to the city’s permanent housing stock over the next two years. Critics question that number, but Windsor said contradictory studies can be found to support whichever view someone might take.

Yukia Hugee, a single mom, said short term rentals make her question her family’s safety.

“I am one of the demographics most affected by these illegal hotels and suffering the consequences of having less safe and affordable housing options for my family,” Hugee said. “Every day I see more and more strangers coming in and out of what used to be residential units that were formerly occupied by friendly and familiar faces.”

Airbnb believes the proposed law will hurt people who use short term rentals to make money to help make ends meet.

An Airbnb analysis of the economic impact of the bill finds it would reduce the supplemental income for hosts in neighborhoods of color by up to $25 million a year; reduce supplemental income for women hosts by up to $14.8 million a year and end up costing hosts city-wide at least $36 million a year.

Also, according to Airbnb, a recent estimate from the D.C. Chief Financial Officer is that the short term rental legislation will cost D.C. taxpayers and families $96 million over four years.

The Monday news conference was arranged by the group, It’s Time Washington, D.C.

Many of those speaking at the news conference asked for the council to pass the measure with no alternations. But, some of the councilmembers who initially voted to move the bill forward indicated they have issues they’ll raise for discussion at the bill’s second reading, which could occur on Tuesday.