City council cracking down on short-term rental compliance in Boston

City council cracking down on short term rental compliance in Boston

BOSTON — Short-term rentals in the City of Boston were the topic of discussion at a city hall meeting on Thursday.

City councilors are checking in on whether rentals have been complying with regulations set by the city in an effort to curb the city's growing housing crisis.

Due to the rising cost of housing in the city, Mayor Marty Walsh has put in place regulations specific to the city's demand for short-term rentals.

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But, just because those regulations exist it doesn't mean people have been trying to evade the system.

"There are recent reports from my constituents [that] unregistered ineligible units are still operating," said City Councilor Ed Flynn.

Under the agreement, Boston will require owners to register their units and comply with city ordinances in order to remain eligible to be used as a short-term rental in the city.

The settlement between the city and short-term housing giant AirBnb announced in August also prevents property owners from monopolizing on short-term rentals across the city.

AirBnb agreed to the settlement and to drop their lawsuit against the city in exchange for displaying host registration numbers and pulling illegal units from its site.

"I have this guy that's complaining," said Paige Johnson, the owner of a short-term rental management company. "What are you complaining about? Times change, things progress."

The Boston City Council announced some of the strictest regulations for short-term rentals in the country back in 2018. The ordinance requires hosts to actually live in any residence they rent out on a short-term basis. Investor units have been banned.

In a letter to the council, which has been shared with Boston 25 News, Airbnb says they're working to comply with all city regulations.

The deadline for hosts to register is Dec. 1.

However, not all members of the council were on board with the measure.

"It's my opinion that an owner of a small property should be able to do what they want to do with their property and we should also have a category for small operators," said Councilor Frank Baker.

Johson did not want to disclose the name of her company, but says they manage more than 70 short-term rental units.

"I just feel like you guys totally missed the mark and you hurt a lot of people that don't have a lot of money, that don't have a lot of opportunities all because you guys get a few calls about trash that usually isn't even about the guests that are staying with us" said Johnson.

City councilors Wu, Edwards and Flynn say they're concerned operators are using loopholes in the city's zoning laws to get around the rules or are operating outright illegally.

Another concern is that residents don't have an effective way to report bad actors.

"Literally, you drive down Dorchester Ave, you see suitcases all summer and including on my own block," said Caroline Cho, a Boston resident.

"If you're an owner and an owner occupant, you're protected by this ordinance - you just have to figure out how to register for that," said Richard Giordano, of the Fenway Community Development Corp. "The rest of this is a business enterprise that takes rental units off the market and makes the housing crisis in this city worse."