Councilors Flynn, Edwards and Wu to Hold Hearing on Short Term Rental Regulations Nov. 14

In part a response to an expose done by the Boston Sun last summer into apartment units in the South End being rented on a nightly basis, the Boston City Council has called a hearing into short-term rental regulations and where the enforcement and policy stands at the moment.

Councilors Ed Flynn, Lydia Edwards and Michelle Wu called for the hearing earlier this fall, and this week set a date for Nov. 14 at 1 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.
The aim of the hearing, they said, is to discuss any potential issues or loopholes that may exist regarding enforcement of the ordinance and the removal of investor units or large corporations. Specifically, constituents have called attention to Primary Residence criteria used as proof of owner occupancy to register with the city, as well as attempts by large companies to convert units to executive suites.

“The Short Term Rentals Ordinance and the removal of large corporations from this industry is critical for our city to protect its housing stock and address quality of life issues,” said Councilor Flynn. “Constituents throughout my district have stressed the importance of strict enforcement to guard against the negative impacts of non-owner occupied, short term rental investor units.”

Added Councilor Wu, “I’m grateful to continue working with Councilor Flynn, Councilor Edwards, and community advocates on taking steps to stabilize our neighborhoods. Housing affordability is the top concern for residents across the city, and we must not only pass strong protections, but ensure that these rules are being enforced in every neighborhood.”

Last summer, the Sun investigated the story of a woman in one of the new developments in the New York Streets neighborhood. The resident said she had been fearful upon returning to her home and finding several rowdy hockey fans in the elevator – fans who had rented an apartment in the residential building on a website for the night so as to take in a game and stay in Boston. She indicated it was an intimidating situation, and she had no idea that units in the building were being rented out by the night until after moving there.

Several internet companies reserve apartments they take on lease for such purposes, including Churchill and Sonder, but hadn’t registered them with the City’s database or complied with the City’s ordinance.

Now it appears that the Council hopes to get to the bottom of why such things exist even as they have passed legislation to prevent it.
They said concerned residents have highlighted unregistered units in operation, reportedly ineligible units that have registered with the city, as well as investor units attempting to convert to executive suites and continue operating.

“This hearing will seek to review the ordinance’s implementation and evidence required by the Inspectional Services Department, as well as addressing concerns about potential loopholes to ensure that investor-owned, short-term rental units are not displacing long-term residents,” read a statement from them.

Passed in June 2018, the ordinance regulates short-term rentals on platforms, such as Airbnb. Only units that are owner-occupied are eligible for short-term rentals. The ordinance would also require operators to register their units, apply for a license yearly, and notify the abutters. The ordinance took effect on January 1st, 2019, while units with executed leases as of June 1, 2018 originally had until September 1, 2019 to comply. The City of Boston subsequently reached an important settlement with Airbnb that will allow critical enforcement provisions to move forward, including the removal of listings by units that are not registered with the City by Dec. 1.

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