By Seth Daniel
Members of the South End Forum voted unanimously on Wednesday, March 15, to sign on with other downtown neighborhood associations, known as the ADCO association, in a letter outlining concerns and preferences with the AirBNB shared housing industry.
The Forum discussed the matter at it’s meeting, and Moderator Steve Fox reported that they would be joining in with the North End Waterfront Association, Beacon Hill Civic, Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB), Chinatown Progressive, Bay Village Neighborhood Association and Fenway Civic.
The groups, particularly the Forum and NABB and Chinese Progressive, have spent the last year researching the matter.
AirBNB is the largest platform for house sharing in the world. Residents are able to rent out rooms or space in their homes via the AirBNB website to individuals who would reserve those rooms. While it seems simple enough and is part of the emerging “shared economy,” no shortage of issues have also emerged with the advent of the popular service.
“We have been trying to figure out for the last year the appropriate ways to deal with AirBNB,” said Fox, noting that the downtown neighborhoods are probably more affected than anywhere else in Greater Boston. “Now we have a set of principles we would like to publish in agreement with the other downtown neighborhood associations…Now that the administration has made a proposal, we want to know what that means about owner-occupant rentals versus commercially available. There are a lot of issues with managing this situation and we’re aware of most of them.”
Police in the area said they also have concerns about AirBNB, including the units rented with ‘no verification.’ That means the identity of the person isn’t taken and so it could be anyone, including a sex offender, a person on Homeland Security watch lists, or a domestic violence situation.
Officer Jorge Dias told the Forum they had an incident recently that spelled out those concerns exactly. Apparently, a male was removed from an apartment in the New York Streets area due to a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend. That male was ordered to stay out of her neighborhood as part of his arraignment orders.
However using AirBNB ‘no verification,’ he was able to violate that 500-foot distance order without anyone knowing.
“He just went around the corner and rented an AirBNB,” said Dias. “No one knew that he was in violation of the 500-foot barrier because his identity wasn’t verified.”
Blackstone/Franklin Square President Eric Huang said he supported the idea, but wanted more information on what the principles were.
Fox said they would be posted on the Forum’s Facebook page imminently.
Currently, the City has proposed regulations regarding AirBNB and has had numerous hearings. Meanwhile, State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz remains a leader in trying to bring forth a statewide bill to regulate the new industry.
“What will happen is as the Legislative proposals go forward, we hope these principles will allow our legislators to understand what concerns us,” said Fox.