Airbnb Host in the South End Welcomes New Regulations to an Extent

May 25, 2018
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Along West Brookline Street in the South End, a brick row-house with two large flags, front garden and flowers pouring down the front staircase blends in to the neighborhood streetscape. But, up through the front entryway a unique Airbnb experience awaits travelers who visit from across the world.

Once inside, a 20-foot chrome brass tree reaches up to the third floor, as a white piano is ready to play. Lining the walls are multiple pieces of artwork, sculptures, and family photos, making this apartment eclectic and welcoming at the same time.

For Airbnb Super Host Edward LeMay, this way of life may soon be jeopardized if the current proposed Ordinance Allowing Short-Term Residential Rentals is passed, as is, by the Boston City Council.

“I’m totally behind the Mayor’s proposal,” said LeMay. “We all don’t want empty apartments with no host in sight, I don’t want that either.”

But, LeMay said, if it is passed he would lose 60 percent of his annual income because of the 120-day limit on operators of owner-adjacent units. This would force LeMay to lose a lot of his investment and eventually force him to sell his three-family home.

“My short-term rentals are my retirement income, augment my long-term care aka assisted living insurance, and allow me to continue living in neighborhood that I have been supporting and yes, creating, since I first moved here in 1978,” LeMay wrote in a letter to Mayor Martin Walsh.

Mayor Martin Walsh filed the amended version of the short-term rental ordinance on May 9, and the Boston City Council held a working session on Monday, May 21. Councilors were split over Walsh’s proposal to restrict Airbnb’s and voiced differing views on the 120-day limit.

At-large City Councilor Michelle Wu reported that City Councilor Lydia Edwards remains concerned about the 120-day on owner-adjacent units and hopes to revisit this. Councilor Matt O’Malley agreed and asked why the cap was set at 120-days and is not sure whether 120 days is too many or too few days.

Lastly, Wu reported that Councilor Kim Janey is also concerned about the 120-day cap as, “being too hard on the little guy (or little woman!),” but supports this as a compromise and wants to see something done.

The guidelines established by the short-term rentals takes a three-tiered approach in classification.

The first is a limited share unit or a private bedroom or shared space in the owners primary residence. The second is a home share unit or a whole unit available for short-term rental at the primary residence of the owner.

The third is an owner-adjacent unit that consists of an owner-occupied two-or three-family building, in which the owner lists a secondary unit as a short term rental up to 120 nights per year. In addition, the owner is able to list the primary residence for an unlimited number of nights per year.

The regulations will require the unit to register with the City of Boston each year to verify compliance with the ordinance.

“Just like we provide affordable housing we should provide affordable, short-term housing to as many people as possible,” said LeMay. “We should make sure that everyone is provided for and has a quality experience in the city of Boston.”

LeMay has been an Airbnb host since 2013 and has since had over 1,000 bookings. He’s been offering two suites and two apartments for rent to 10 guests per evening. He has an overall rating of 4.8 stars out of 5, of close to 900 ratings.

LeMay said he is willing to pay city and state taxes to certify, regulate, and prevent abuses of short term platforms like Airbnb by deep pocket investors.

He added that his Airbnb contributes to the South End as over 2,500 guests since 2013 have eaten two to three meals per day in restaurants in the neighborhood and stay in the city longer because they have more disposable income for dinners, theaters, sporting events and shopping.

In addition, the online platform of Airbnb where hosts can rate guests and guests can rate hosts, he said, serves as an important tool to weed out any unwanted situations.

“Airbnb does what Inspectional Services Department (ISD) doesn’t do,” said LeMay. “It is totally transparent. If someone is misbehaving, Airbnb and other companies will flag them out.”

LeMay hopes that the City decides to go with a Pilot Program to get hosts like him to apply to the city and get a seal of approval to operate but, he would like to see the 120-day limit taken out for owner-adjacent units.

Until the decision is made LeMay said he will continue to be, “a host in life.”

To find out more about Ed LeMay’s Airbnb visit NedInnBoston.com.

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