Seattle passes ‘Airbnb’ short-term rental tax

In an effort to raise funding to lift the city from an ongoing affordability and homelessness crisis, Seattle will tax short-term rentals like Airbnb.

The City Council passed the new tax Monday with plans for the cost to be tacked onto guest bills starting in 2019. A tax of $14 per night for homes and $8 per night for rooms is hoped to raise more than $7 million per year.

Much of the money raised by the tax is earmarked for the city’s Equitable Development Initiative to push economic development and fight displacement in the Central District, International District, and Rainier Valley.

The council pulled back on larger regulations for the industry that some say has contributed to higher rents in Seattle by taking available housing stock off the market. Regulations including limits on the number of short-term rentals a person can own will move back to committee before coming back to the full council.

The newly approved tax, meanwhile, might never be implemented. State lawmakers have also targeted the industry for possible taxation. A provision in the legislation approved Monday will put Seattle in position to remove its so-called Airbnb tax — If a statewide tax will provide similar funding opportunities to the city.

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14 thoughts on “Seattle passes ‘Airbnb’ short-term rental tax

  1. I believe that the Airbnb juggernaut is having a significant effect on the lack of affordable housing, especially in a neighborhood like Capitol Hill because there are many more Airbnb units compared to most other neighborhoods. When so many units are no longer available for long-term renters, that not only reduces the overall supply but also raises rents for those that are available. One example is a recently-built building in the 600 block of 12th Ave E (west side), which is an “all-Airbnb” building….it has only small, studio-size units which would have reasonable rents IF they were available for long-term rentals.

    I support the tax as described, and also the additional regulations that are on the table, as these measures will at least slow down the numbers of Airbnb units.

    • Good. Airbnb and visitors who are renting from them are jacking up Seattle’s expensive rental market. Let them pay for it and use the money to help lower-income Seattle residents with their housing expenses. If they don’t like it, they have a choice– there are plenty of hotels in Seattle that probably give back more to the economy.

  2. This tax will also tend to raise prices for hotel rooms in the city by decreasing the competitive pressures from providers of short-term housing through airbnb. Of course, this most directly affects out-of-town visitors who don’t vote here, so I suppose their interests are easier to discount.

    • There’s already a tax on hotel rooms (mostly paid for by tourists); and a hefty tax on car rentals in Seattle, too. Guess who mostly rents cars? Not local residents. Seattle is hardly alone on this one…almost every big city taxes lodging and car rentals at a pretty good clip.

  3. Its interesting that this tax won’t help those displaced on Capitol Hill. It will “much” help those in southern neighborhoods (where this tax won’t be collected from). I’m curious to understand where the rest of the “much” will be going towards? Will it help homelessness or some other worthy cause?

    It seems like this (and any tax we take on) is not accountable to anyone. It seems like those in control of the purse strings in Seattle are not always putting effort into getting the most “bang for our buck”.. Seems like we go through some trickle down before it actually makes it to someone in true need.

    • Just commented the following on the other post, but in line with your comment…

      I am most definitely a liberal but this city is off in the weeds. It’s like a leftist bizzaro world version of the White House (obviously with Sawant as bizzaro-Trump).

      A basic assumption is made if anything is to be be done then we must have a new tax for new revenue. Never a discussion about the billions we currently spend… let’s just take it from someone… raise a bit of revenue as well as dispense punishment on those who we deem responsible.

      The city’s overall budget (general fund, utilities, etc.) has increased by 38 percent over the last seven years (from $4 billion a year to $5.5 billion) this from http://crosscut.com/2017/06/seattle-talk-manage-revenue-before-taxation/

      There will never be enough money to spend or enough blame too spread for this current city council.

      Holy crap, I sound like some sort of ideologue troll, but I’m just some random liberal with common sense… just like the vast majority of people who live here.

    • I’m a little late to the game, but the budget increase can likely be explained by two things:

      1. Population growth of over 20% in that same period (you compared gross budget, not per capita budget).
      2. Economy growth over that same period, i.e. restoring services that were axed during the recession.

      The questions I would ask are: what was the budget per capita from 2007 (pre-recession), through the recession, to present day?

      Contrary, what is the the budget per capita of comparable cities, e.g. San Francisco, Boston, Austin, Washington DC, Portland, etc.

  4. We rent out a MIl on Airbnb

    – a flat tax per night seems to favor those who are renting out entire apartments or houses since the cost increase to cover the tax will be a much smaller % than a shared apt or mil (where the cost per night is considerably less). Is it really the intention to penalize those who are making less money against those speculating entire units? I would need a 25%’increase to cover a $14 night tax.

    – allowing an unlimited number of short term units downtown, SLU etc is reducing the available apartments for rent in exactly the place where rentals are needed most. In addition these units are highly unlikely to be shared – most likely to be operators renting out multiple units (possibly without the landlords permission

    – if the city requires an operators license it should also make sure that the operator is either the owner or an acknowledged agent of the owner of the unit. This would reduce illegal subletting and bring more accountability.

    – finally, I would recommend you follow other cities who require the owner to be present during the rental. Having rented out my unit to 300+ people I would say 2% would be extremely detrimental to my neighbors if I was not present. Problems include loud music, garbage dumping, over occupancy, smoking where prohibited and illegal parking. I would not want to own a property next to a short term rental if the owner was not present. I believe you heard this feedback in your last meeting (from a condo owner in belltown).

  5. I agree, that two things need to happen with “registered” AirBNB units:

    1) Verified legal owner needs to be present and verified by AirBNB
    2) Authorization of condo units/apartment units should be obtained and residents should be notified they live in units with AirBNB units
    3) AirBNB (and any service provider) should be required to gather and verify registered units.

    This would prevent a rando from renting out his unit to anyone without any clearance from anyone. It’s an opportunist dream at the moment.

    • To be honest, it would be an utter nightmare living next door to an condo unit which has Airbnb folks coming and going.

      I have enough with them using the basement which has separate entrance and is mostly soundproof. But many arrive late, can’t figure out how to open the door, don’t lock up or close gates, leave crap everywhere and tend to be not very considerate of others since they don’t know their neighbors etc.

      This is why NYC, Santa Monica etc ban whole unit rentals (as well as affordability for residents). Given our housing crisis it is strange that Seattle is not doing the same

  6. According to today’s SeattleTimes, the City Council in Vancouver B.C. just passed legislation which significantly regulates Airbnb there, with the goal of limiting the impact of Airbnb on availability of long-term housing. It sounds like a great move, and one which we in Seattle should copy.

  7. I agree wholeheartedly with Bob that Vancouver has done the right thing by limiting the “sharing” economy to ONLY when the owner is present. Especially given that the housing situation in Seattle is similar. There are thousand of units in Seattle (over 7000 according to the airbnb site) that could be permanent housing for Seattleites. Statistics estimate that two thirds of listings in Seattle are whole house or apartment listings. Many many hosts have more than one listing. The microhousing host (Erik) on 12th Avenue has 39 units in that building alone! He is in no way “sharing” anything except housing that could be for residents with tourists. In exchange for money of course……………………….

    It isn’t the city governments job to provide cheap accommodation deals for tourists. If they really want to protect housing stock then what Vancouver has done is the best way to go! Share your house fine but “sharing” dozens of apartments is NOT allowed.

    Unfortunately whatever direction the City decides to go airbnb has shown time and time again that they blatantly break the rules in any city that HAS passed regulations. In New York and San Francisco there are countless violators and airbnb does nothing in spite of having the power to do so. Seattle will be no different in that regard. Airbnb makes their own rules period.

    Seattle needs Linda Rosenthal from New York to advise them on what to do. She has consistently pointed out what snakes the owners of airbnb are and how they have threatened housing stock in New York City.

    No wonder Amazon is looking elsewhere for a second headquarters as there isn’t enough housing for their workers in Seattle. I would guess they will pick a place with strict rules regarding airbnb and the like.

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