City Councilor Calls for Hearing on Airbnb

Airbnb host Barbara Bennison. Airbnb allows users to rent out their homes for short periods of time.
Airbnb host Barbara Bennison. Airbnb allows users to rent out their homes for short periods of time. –David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Boston City Councilor Sal LaMattina is calling for a hearing on how city regulations mesh with online home rental services like Airbnb, Boston Magazine reports.

In a filing submitted this week, LaMattina said concerns have been raised in Boston about people offering up their abodes to complete strangers, and making beds, rooms, or entire homes available for overnight rentals through online services.

He said there have also been issues reported about violations of city trash laws, parking and noise policies, and turning neighborhoods zoned for residential living into "impromptu hotel districts."

LaMattina also seems interested in discussing the effect Airbnb has had on the hotel industry. A study out of Boston University released a while back showed that the hotel industry in Texas took a revenue hit with increases in Airbnb listings. (Shocking, I know.) If you’re hearing shades of the Uber regulatory battles, that’s because it’s basically the same debate.

You can see LaMattina’s order calling for the hearing here.

Airbnb allows users to rent out their homes to other users for short-term stays at a price of their choosing. The company has seen some regulatory backlash in other parts of the country, with critics saying the practice amounts to the formation of illegal hotels. Users say Airbnb offers a travel experience that feels more local than a hotel, since the lodging is typically in a residential area. The service is also sometimes—sometimes—a better value than a hotel in a similar location.

Advertisement reported last month that the administration of Mayor Martin Walsh was considering possible regulations on Airbnb and similar services, but told Inspectional Services Department workers not fine anybody found to be using the service in the meantime. A spokesperson told at the time that the way ISD classifies violations makes it difficult to know for sure, but said “no violations regarding ‘Airbnb’ rentals have been issued.’’ The Boston Globe reported last month that thousands of properties in Boston are available for rent using the service.

Following news of LaMattina’s filing, the city offered a statement to saying it is still in the review process as it considers new policies:

The City of Boston has a cross departmental team looking into short term home rental services, like AirBnb, which is examining existing statutes and looking at other cities' best practices for guidance. We anticipate having policy recommendations around these types of services this fall.

The City of Quincy, meanwhile, appears to be cracking down on the service’s users. A separate memo from the state released in May suggested cities and towns should regulate Airbnb hosts like bed and breakfast services.

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