Council hearing set on revisions to short-term rental ordinance

Boston City Councillors Lydia Edward, Ed Flynn, and Michelle Wu will hold a hearing on proposed revisions to the Short-Term Rental ordinance on Thurs., Nov. 14, at 1 p.m.

The aim of the session, which will be chaired by Edwards, is to have a discussion about potential issues or loopholes regarding enforcement of the ordinance.

Specifically, community members have expressed concerns about the “primary residence” criteria used as proof of owner occupancy to register with the city and about large companies looking to convert some of the rental units to executive suites.

Passed in June of 2018, the existing ordinance, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2019, mandated that only units that are owner-occupied are eligible to be used for short-term rentals. It also required operators to register their units, apply for a license yearly, and notify abutters. Units with executed leases as of June 1, 2018 were given until Sept. 1, 2019 to comply.

City officials then reached a settlement with Airbnb that allowed critical enforcement provisions to move forward, including the removal of listings by units that are not registered with the city by December 1.

Residents have highlighted unregistered units that are still in business, ineligible units that have registered with the city, and investor units moving to convert to executive suites.

The councillors want to review the ordinance’s implementation and permits required by the Inspectional Services Department to ensure that investor-owned, short-term rental units are not displacing long-term residents.

“The Short Term Rentals Ordinance and the removal of large corporations from this industry is critical for our city to protect its housing stock and address quality of life issues,” said Flynn in a statement. “Constituents throughout my district have stressed the importance of strict enforcement to guard against the negative impacts of non-owner occupied, short-term rental investor units.”

The ordinance “protects our housing stock from speculative investments while allowing owner-occupants to earn supplemental income,” said Edwards, adding that she hopes to ensure that the “spirit of the law” is upheld by its enforcement.

“I’m grateful to continue working with Councillor Flynn, Councillor Edwards, and community advocates on taking steps to stabilize our neighborhoods,” said Wu. “Housing affordability is the top concern for residents across the city, and we must not only pass strong protections, but also ensure that these rules are being enforced in every neighborhood.”