Councilmember Tim Burgess is resurrecting legislation that would regulate short-term vacation rentals in Seattle. The primary goal of the legislation is to address the housing affordability impacts that short-term vacation rental services like Airbnb and VRBO can have on neighborhoods, particularly by large-scale commercial operators. Other goals of the legislation is to ensure health and safety, payment of appropriate business taxes, and creating fairness in the short-term vacation rental market. Last year, similar legislation was taken through the committee review process but met stiff opposition from homeowners who wanted fewer or no regulations on short-term vacation rentals.
The revised legislation would require all short-term vacation rental operators to hold a license, but would eliminate the maximum number of days that a unit could be rented as a short-term vacation rental. The proposed legislation would also grandfather in some large-scale commercial short-term vacation rental businesses–which in some cases are effectively hotels–and cap the number of units that individual operators could run.
Recent data procured by the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections provides important context on the issue of regulation short-term vacation rentals:
According to data obtained from Airbnb in January 2017, over 3,900 persons or entities (“hosts”) in the City of Seattle rent all or part of a housing unit through Airbnb. Of the approximately 5,700 rental units 2 available for short-term rental, over 4,000 rentals are for entire homes or apartments and at least 1,000 are not the primary residence of the owner.
For small short-term vacation rental operators, many are using platforms like Airbnb to make additional money to pay for their increasing housing costs–often while they themselves go on vacation. But regulating short-term vacation rentals has become a growing priority as property owners have converted permanent housing units into full-time short-term vacation rentals. Inaction on regulation has led to hundreds and possibly thousands of permanent long-term housing units to be lost in Seattle–many of which were previously affordable or moderately-priced housing units. By most indications, short-term vacation rentals have exacerbated the overall housing shortage and affordability crisis in booming cities like Seattle.