Vacation and short-term rentals appear to be the next crowd economy targeted for regulation in Seattle. This week, City Council affordability committee chair Tim Burgess posted about regulating short-term rentals, a plan Burgess says “aligns” with Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda recommendations:
In the coming months, my City Council committee will explore a regulatory framework for short-term vacation rentals. This work aligns with the Council’s work plan issued in response to the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda recommendations.
On the other side of the coin, however, short-term rentals can boost incomes for those struggling with their own home payments. Airbnb, one of the major players in this arena, recently released data about their users and emphasized that the vast majority of their hosts live in the unit they rent; they either share their home or rent it while out of town themselves.
Burgess says his committee will seek to answer five key questions about the rental market for companies like Airbnb and VRBO:
- Unit type: Is the short-term rental for an entire unit or a shared space?
- Rental frequency: Is the unit rented commercially (frequently) or casually (infrequently)?
- Host presence: Does the owner live on-site or off-site?
- Building type: Is the short-term rental in a single-family or multi-family building?
- Location: What type of land use zone is the short-term rental in?
The initiative follows Seattle’s efforts to reform the taxi and “transportation network company” industry like Uber and Lyft. In December, the Council voted to allow Seattle’s for-hire drivers to unionize. Following the vote, Mayor Ed Murray said in a statement that he would not sign the bill, but would not veto it either, paving the way for it to become law. “I remain concerned that this ordinance, as passed by the Council, includes several flaws, especially related to the relatively unknown costs of administering the collective bargaining process and the burden of significant rulemaking the Council has placed on City staff,” Murray said.
In the wake of the Burgess post, Airbnb released a “Seattle economic impact report” showing “151,000 guests stayed in one of 2,900 Seattle-based Airbnb locations and generated $178 million in ‘total economic activity,’ which includes direct, indirect, and induced spending,” Geekwire reports.
The Airbnb report positions its users as casual landlords. “The average host is 45 years old, with a large percentage working in art, design, and creative services, as well as education and health services,” the report based on a combination of 2014 and 2015 data reads. “While Airbnb hosts are highly educated, roughly one in three hosts earns less than $75,000 per year in household income.” The company says its 2,900 “hosts” received around $30 million in the 12-month period covered by its report. The full document is below.