LA Pumps the Brakes on Short-Term Rentals

LOS ANGELES (CN) – In response to its housing and homelessness crisis, the city of Los Angeles on Wednesday stepped up its regulations on short-term rental properties such as those found on Airbnb.

In an effort to catch up with the growing vacation-rental economy, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved a framework for a new set of laws that are still several months from implementation.

Those new regulations include a 120-day cap on rentals and a requirement that hosts tell their neighbors they will be renting their property and how to file complaints with the city. Renting out space in affordable housing units will be banned.

Three years ago, housing advocates asked for new regulations after a 2015 study from the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy revealed that the city lost 15,000 long-term rental housing units to the short-term market.

Now, city officials say they’re making their way to a balanced approach to addressing short-term rentals, a shrinking housing market and the new economy.

“We have worked very hard to try and balance these competing interests,” said Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin at Wednesday’s meeting. “It ain’t easy. This is Goldilocks we’re looking for. We’re hoping this one is just right. It probably isn’t.”

City officials will revisit the ordinance in the coming months as it is formally adopted.

Los Angeles is late to the party as cities across the country have scrambled to adopt new laws to rein in the impact short-term rentals have had on neighborhoods and the housing market.

When the city of San Francisco’s new short-term rental law went into effect this year requiring hosts to register with Airbnb, who then registered those hosts with the city, about half of all listings disappeared from Airbnb’s website, according to a company spokesman.

In South Lake Tahoe, California, neighbors complained for years about rowdy renters coming to the neighborhood to party. Today, some renters encounter steep fines for having too many cars parked at a property or making too much noise.

And earlier this year, a union-commissioned report estimated that vacation rental sites were responsible for removing thousands of units from New York City’s long-term rental market.

In an emailed statement, Airbnb called the proposed Los Angeles ordinance a “step in the right direction,” pointing to new regulations in Chicago, Seattle and New Orleans that it says benefit communities and grow the short-term rental economy.

In 2016, the company reached a deal with Los Angeles to pay hotel taxes on behalf of its hosts.

In the past, Airbnb said hosting on its site has helped residents stay in their homes by renting them out for supplemental income.

That was a concern for many Los Angeles residents at Wednesday’s city council meeting, who said they rely on the income they receive from renting out their homes or spare bedrooms.

One Los Angeles resident, Andy Griggs, called the city’s proposed ordinance “a mess” that discouraged home-sharing because of new fees that would price out residents and favor commercial hosts.

Representatives from Unite Here Local 11, who represent more than 20,000 workers – including those in the hotel industry – said Wednesday’s vote will hold sites like Airbnb accountable for complying with the law when listing units.

The drafted ordinance will go to the city attorney’s office and another commission for further updates.

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