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DC Council votes to restrict Airbnb in Washington

The legislation is a victory for the hotel industry, community groups and other Airbnb critics

Washington

THE DC Council unanimously gave preliminary approval to legislation that makes Washington one of the most tightly regulated cities in the country when it comes to Airbnb and other similar homesharing services.

The restrictions will affect thousands of Washington property owners who earn income by renting space on Airbnb and other similar services, as well as visitors to the nation's capital who rely on those services for lodging.

Airbnb lobbied hard against the plan, saying it would cost property owners tens of millions of dollars in lost income and give Washington the most restrictive legislation of any major US city except New York and San Francisco.

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The legislation, which requires a second vote later this month, represents a victory for the hotel industry, community groups and other Airbnb critics.

They mounted a campaign, including television ads, arguing that the growth of short-term rentals is disrupting neighbourhoods and aggravating a shortage of affordable rental housing.

Airbnb and similar companies have countered with their own media effort saying that the hotel industry and its unions are trying to eliminate competition.

There are about 9,000 short-term rentals operating in Washington, which "directly compete" with more than 31,000 hotel rooms, according to a council report.

The legislation blocks property owners from using Airbnb and similar companies to rent second homes on a short-term basis.

It limits homeowners to renting out their primary residence to 90 days in a calendar year when the host is absent.

There would be no limit on short-term rentals of space in one's residence - such as a spare bedroom or basement - when the host is present.

The voice vote came after the council voted 8-5 to reject an effort to soften the restrictions by raising from 90 days to 120 days the ceiling on the number of days per year that a property owner may rent a primary residence in a short-term basis when the host is absent.

Airbnb said 670 of its 6,500 current listings in Washington are rented for more than 180 days a year, and it assumes those are all second homes - as opposed to primary residences - that would be affected by the legislation.

That is less than one-quarter of one per cent of the city's total of about 300,000 units. WP