Airbnb’s salvo last week against City Councilor Michelle Wu for her stance on short-term rentals surprised many. Even in the sharp-elbowed world of Boston politics, public attacks by an out-of-town company on a city councilor are rare.
But it popped the lid off the simmering debate over Airbnb’s future in Boston as the council and Mayor Martin J. Walsh try to hammer out rules to govern the booming short-term rental industry. At stake are hundreds of millions of dollars, with powerful interests on both sides.
For two months in public, and in two years of quiet meetings before that, a vast array of interests has been wrestling over an industry that’s changing the way people visit Boston and — some say — turning too much of the city’s scarce housing stock into hotels for out-of-towners.