New Restrictions Could Impact Airbnbs in Washington DC, but Are They the Best Answer to the Housing Problem?

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Airbnb isn’t just an easy way to book a place to stay in a new city, it actually can be part of the travel experience itself.

There are so many unique short-term rentals offered on Airbnb that it might even be worth a trip just to stay in one of them.  From a traveler’s perspective, Airbnb offers a fast and easy way to integrate into a new place by staying in the heart of the city.  It allows people to book inexpensive accommodations when traveling for business.

My family often searches for Airbnbs that we can stay in for our annual reunion each summer.  We know it’s an easy place to find a housing option that works for all of us.  From an Airbnb host’s perspective, it’s a solid way to monetize your home while you’re away.  Long story short, it’s a popular option for both hosts and travelers.

And for good reason.

Airbnb Makes Traveling a Bit Easier, but a Proposed Bill Is Pushing to Seriously Restrict Short-Term Rentals in Washington D.C.

But understandably, there are groups that aren’t the biggest fans of this service.  Namely the hotel industry and in certain cases, residents who feel the presence of Airbnb causes a negative impact on their community.

One of the logical complaints I’ve heard regarding the increase of short-term rentals in urban areas is that this has led to a significant decrease in affordable housing.  This makes sense.  If I can make $1,500 a month renting out my second property for 10 days on Airbnb, that looks a lot more appealing than renting it for $1,500 a month to a full-time tenant.

Both New York City and San Francisco, two cities that are facing a serious housing shortage, have passed legislation to strictly limit Airbnb.  Now, Washington DC just voted to pre-approve a similar bill that significantly inhibits property owners who are hosting on Airbnb.  Here are the details of the restrictions for the short-term rentals in Washington DC:

  • Property owners would be prohibited from renting out their primary property for more than 90 days in one calendar year.
  • There would be major restrictions on short-term rentals, which could be a huge loss of income for those who rely on renting their secondary properties out on Airbnb.

The details are still not fully scoped out, but it does look like there has been political support for this bill.  This would be a major blow to the approximately 9,000 Airbnb rentals in the D.C. area and could have a tremendous financial impact with the loss of income for those homeowners.  In the past, Airbnb has found smart and creative ways to work with restrictive legislation.  In this case, a representative for Airbnb aptly stated, “we do want to regulate, but we don’t want to strangulate.”  Well said.

As both a frequent traveler and someone who has hosted on Airbnb for supplementary income, this entire conversation is incredibly frustrating.  Without getting too political, I’d like to believe that there must be better, more positive ways to increase affordable housing options in populated areas without disrupting those who have been successfully hosting on Airbnb.  This is a part of the economy that is actually growing and flourishing, why would we opt to impede that?  Let’s build and adapt, not regress and destruct.

What do you think about these new regulations aimed to prohibit short-term rentals?  Can you think of a better solution to solve the affordable housing crisis in Washington DC?

Let me know your ideas in the comments section below!

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