The Boston City Council voted 11 to 2 on Wednesday to approve an ordinance to regulate short-term housing rentals done through platforms like Airbnb. Here’s how the voting went down!
Last month, Mayor Marty Walsh filed a billed with the City Council establishing guidelines and regulations of short-term rentals in Boston. In a nutshell, it will set strict limitations on investor-owned apartments from being rented by the night. People who own and live in their property would be allowed to rent — short-term — a room in their home, or a unit in a two- or three-family building.
Via City Councilor At-Large Michelle Wu‘s weekly newsletter (which you should totally sign up for) here is the play by play from Wednesday’s meeting:
- Councilor Flaherty, as Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, reported out of committee an amended ordinance (read the committee report and language here). The main changes included removing the 120-day cap on owner-adjacent units, requiring that the information in the new Short Term Rentals registry be made public and reporting every year.
- 120-Day Cap (rejected 7-6, Councilors Essaibi George, Flynn, O’Malley, Pressley, Wu, Zakim voting in the minority): Councilor O’Malley moved to reinstate the 120-day cap on Owner-Adjacent Units, expressing concerns that closing down the downtown investor market for Short Term Rentals would push demand to the neighborhoods and destabilize the outer neighborhoods with a higher proportion of 2- and 3-family homes, including in his district.
- Biannual Reporting (passed 12-1, Councilor Flaherty voting against): Councilor O’Malley moved to require reporting with specific data every six months, rather than yearly as in the draft ordinance.
- One Whole Unit at a Time (passed 8-5, Councilors Baker, Campbell, Ciommo, Flaherty, McCarthy voting against): I filed an amendment (split into two provisions after a challenge from Councilor Flaherty to Divide the Question and affirmed by Councilor Campbell; this is the first part) to limit operators to listing one whole unit at a time. This means that an owner-occupant of a 2- or 3-family home could list an owner-adjacent unit 365 days per year, and extra bedrooms in his or her primary resident unit 365 days per year, but if that person intends to list the entire primary resident unit while on vacation or out of town for up to 90 days, s/he can’t additionally list the owner-adjacent unit and leave a hotel-like situation for 90 days of the year.
- Wind-Down Provision (passed 10-2, Councilors Flaherty and Janey against): The second part of my amendment, which I was happy to add Councilor Baker as a co-sponsor on since it was similar to one he was intending to propose, creates a mechanism to ease the transition for those whose economic opportunities will be eliminated or limited by our new ordinance. The language maintains the January 1st, 2019, implementation date, but allows existing units contracted for Short Term Rentals with a lease in place as of June 1, 2018, to continue operating until the expiration of the lease or September 1, 2019, whichever date comes first. That means that the units contracted long-term could transition back to the housing market when renters are looking, most often in September or one of the summer months. Other cities that have passed similar regulations have provided for a wind-down period of 1-3 years.
- Buildings with Up to 6 Units (rejected 9-4, Councilors Baker, Ciommo, Essaibi George, McCarthy voting in favor): Councilor Baker proposed amending the provision that allows for owner-adjacent units for owner-occupants of 2- or 3-family homes, to increase that eligibility for owner-occupants of 4-, 5-, and 6-unit buildings. Councilors Baker and Ciommo noted that the City’s current Rental Registry distinguishes between landlords at 6+ vs. under 6-unit buildings.
- Investor Units with 5% Cap (rejected, only by voice vote, not roll call): Councilor Ciommo moved to add a provision that would allow investor units for Short Term Rentals, provided that the total number of investor units per building would not exceed 5% of the total units. He expressed concern that shutting down downtown demand would shift all demand to neighborhoods, and said his solution would be to increase competition by allowing some investor units with a reasonable cap.
- Tenants (rejected 10-3, Councilors Baker, Ciommo, McCarthy in favor): Councilor McCarthy proposed an amendment to allow tenants to offer short-term rentals as well, stating that he believed this would help ensure equity.
- Process: Councilor Essaibi George expressed frustration that there was not an additional working session before today’s vote.
- FINAL vote on amended version, including the 3 successful amendments: PASSED 11-2, Councilors Baker and Ciommo voting against.