In a bid to make more of the city’s rental capacity available to honest to goodness renters — and in the latest attempt to regulate Seattle’s sharing economy — Seattle officials have unveiled a plan to clamp down on houses and apartments permanently listed for tourists on services like Airbnb and VBRO.
The proposal (PDF) seeks to distinguish people who are making some extra cash by occasionally renting out their homes for short-term stays and those who are renting out units year-round on a short-term basis.
“Property owners are shifting hundreds of homes from the long-term residential market to short-term rental platforms like Airbnb, and in doing so dangerously reduce our housing supply,” said Council member Tim Burgess in a statement.
Under the proposal, any apartment or house that does not have a permanent resident would be prohibited from having more than 90 nights of short-term stays per year. Permanent residents could rent out their homes above the 90-day cap if they receive a license from the city.
“We must protect our existing rental housing supply at a time when it is becoming harder for residents to find an affordable home in Seattle.”
The new license will require proof the unit is being rented by the operator’s primary resident, proof of insurance that covers short-term rentals, a local contact number, and basic safety information. Short-term rentals are defined by the city as those under 30 consecutive nights.
The Mayor Ed Murray-backed proposal also comes with some new requirements on rental platforms, like Aibnb.
The platforms will be required to provide information about Seattle’s regulation to operators using the platform and share basic data with the City on a quarterly basis, including the names and address of operators and the number of nights each operator has rented a short term rental on the platform.
Primary and non-primary resident operators will still need to meet the city’s current requirements, which include obtaining a city-issued business license and pay applicable taxes.
“We must protect our existing rental housing supply at a time when it is becoming harder for residents to find an affordable home in Seattle,” said Murray said in a statement.
Seattle’s densest neighborhoods, including Capitol Hill, tend to be the most saturated with short-term rentals. There were 61 Captiol Hill rentals available on Airbnb for the June 3rd weekend — only 10% of the listings left for that date. According to insideairbnb.com, more than a third of Airbnb listings on Capitol Hill are from hosts who have multiple listings.
According to a policy paper put out by Burgess’s office, short-term rentals on Airbnb have exacerbated the city’s housing crisis. Regulating short-term and vacation rentals was one of the recommendations to come out of the mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda Committee last year. The group proposed a tax short-term rentals to fund affordable housing, but Burgess’s staff determined the city lacks the authority to implement such a policy.
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, 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.
After Burgess announced in January that his staff would be exploring short-term rental regulations, Airbnb released a “Seattle economic impact report” in response. The report showed 151,000 guests stayed in one of 2,900 Seattle-based Airbnb locations and generated $178 million in “total economic activity.”
Meanwhile, City Council members advanced a bill Wednesday that would restrict rent increases in buildings with housing code violations. The so-called “Carl Haglund law,” named after a notorious Seattle landlord, was first proposed by City Council District 3 rep Kshama Sawant last year. The legislation includes six new elements including restricting landlords from raising rents in properties that don’t meet required standards and, maybe even more importantly, transferring enforcement from police to the Department of Construction and Inspections. The rules would also require landlords provide at least 60-day notice on rent increases of 10% or more.