Marty Walsh opposes year-round Airbnb rentals in owner-occupied buildings

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( 05/28/18 Boston, MA ) Mayor Walsh and Governor Baker attend the Dorchester Memorial Day Service at Cedar Grove Cemetery. May 28, 2018. Staff Photo by Faith Ninivaggi

Mayor Martin J. Walsh is resisting a push to let Boston’s resident landlords rent out Airbnb units year-round in the buildings they live in, saying they shouldn’t use that business model to pay their bills.

The City Council is currently mulling Walsh’s proposal for strictly regulating short-term rentals in the city, which includes requiring hosts to register and pay fees, and banning outright “investor units” — the renting out of properties where the landlord doesn’t live.

But while Walsh’s plan would let property owners and tenants rent out rooms in their own units year-round, it places a 120-day limit on owner occupants of two- and three-family homes looking to rent out otherwise empty apartments in their building.

Airbnb hosts have repeatedly called for looser restrictions, saying money from short-term rentals allows them to pay their own mortgages and stay in the city, but Walsh said that doesn’t justify year-round short-term rentals that take properties out of the residential market.

“Airbnb wasn’t there three or four years ago, not the way it is today. That’s not the business model people should have,” Walsh told the Herald yesterday. “I feel bad for some people but you can pay your mortgage by renting to a family, too. I can’t worry about that, I’m looking to get rentals on the market.”

The council doesn’t meet this week, but will likely vote on the the regulations June 6. Councilors have already called for changes, including requiring the short-term rental registry to be public and mandating regular reports from city officials about the effects of the new policy.

And a veto-proof supermajority of nine city councilors is pushing for year-round rentals for owner occupants, and has the ability to amend Walsh’s plan.

Walsh said he’s still talking with councilors about “minor adjustments,” but would not rule out a veto of his own proposal if councilors approve changes he doesn’t agree with.

“I’m going to wait and see. It’s too early to talk about what I’ll veto and what I’ll sign,” Walsh said. “It’s going to be a collaborative conversation. I’m not going to enforce my will on this legislation, this has been a cooperative piece of bargaining back and forth.”

Walsh’s latest proposal is the second time he’s tried to restrict short-term rentals, and he said regulation is necessary for the new market.

“Airbnb is a new industry, it’s going to be my responsibility as mayor if something goes wrong in these units, if someone gets hurt — it’ll be my responsibility for why it wasn’t regulated,” Walsh said. “We’re listening to everyone and hopefully we can come up with some resolution this week and final legislation moving forward.”

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