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City might pass Airbnb ordinance

Regulations on short-term rentals aim to discourage investor units

Karen Morales | 2/7/2018, 11:26 a.m.

Members of the CCLT, the Chinese Progressive Association and the Chinatown Resident Association have tried to track the number of short-term rental units in their neighborhood. One resident, Lowe said, “has estimated through his search online that there are at least 100 units on any given day advertised in Chinatown.”

Lowe said that residents have seen a growing presence in the last year-and-a-half of short-term rental units in the neighborhood. She cited as an example “four or five buildings that we notice people coming in and out with suitcases and have keypads on door instead of regular locks.”

Limited housing

Advocates with the Fenway Community Development Corporation are also in support of short-term rental regulations, especially the one host, one home rule.

Colleen Fitzpatrick, community organizer for Fenway CDC, said she believes it’s the right first step for the city to distinguish between individual and investor units and to track where Airbnb is happening.

“Our vision is that [because] we have a housing crisis in Boston and limited supply, they should disallow multi-unit owners to use Airbnb, which is the category that has the greatest effect on the market,” she said.

Fitzpatrick said that in addition to Airbnb, units are also listed with corporate short stay companies, which have been increasingly prevalent in areas such as the Fenway.

These companies, such as Compass Corporate Housing LLC and Churchill Corporate Housing, cater to visitors who come to Boston on business.

Effect on rent

The Fenway CDC has estimated through online listings on multiple websites that there are about 2,000 corporate short-stay units that are marketed to business travelers in Boston.

Both CCLT and Fenway CDC are a part of the Welcome Home Coalition of housing organizations from different neighborhoods in Massachusetts who have been calling for stricter regulations on short-term rentals.

A 2016 study conducted by UMass Boston, which the ordinance cites as one of the reasons to regulate, found a 0.4 percent increase in rent prices in Boston in correlation with an increase in the Airbnb listings. And recently, the ShareBetter Coalition, a group of New York City housing and tenant advocacy organizations, found that annually, Airbnb takes 13,500 rental units from the long-term rental market, and by reducing the housing supply, has caused a $384 annual increase in rent for the average New York tenant.

“We’re looking forward to further discussion with the council and public about this policy,” said Lowe.

On Feb. 13, a city council committee hearing on the short-term rental unit ordinance will take place in the Iannella Chamber in Boston City Hall at 10 a.m. Members of the public are encouraged to attend and testify.