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Boston Mayor Takes Second Crack At Airbnb With More Aggressive Legislation

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh

The battle over how short-term rentals should be regulated in Boston intensified Wednesday, with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh making a second attempt at legislation that is more aggressive than his first.

Walsh filed a plan with City Hall to impose stricter rules on short-term rentals that take aim at people who own a property but don’t actually live in the unit. While owners who live in a home could rent out a room without limit, Walsh’s proposal would ban investor-owned apartments (units where the owner does not live in the unit) from being rented on services like Airbnb, the Boston Herald reports. Owner-occupants of two- and three-family properties could rent out spare units for up to 120 nights per year. 

Housing advocates and the hotel industry have criticized investor units for becoming quasi-hotels that bypass regulation and drive up home prices. Walsh’s proposal would force short-term listing sites to sign an agreement with the city of Boston to patrol listings and de-list ineligible properties while also providing monthly reports on the location and length of rentals. 

Walsh previously filed plans for short-term rental regulation in January before withdrawing the proposal in March. His original plan would have enabled investor units to be rented for up to 90 days each year.  

"Thoughtful regulation of short-term rentals that balance our efforts to preserve housing affordability with the growing demand for short-term rentals is key to keeping our communities stable," Walsh said in a prepared statement. "Boston is a great place to live and visit, and we look forward to responsibly incorporating the growth of the home-share industry into our work to create affordable housing options for all."

Airbnb has waged a campaign against proponents of short-term rental regulation, including Boston City Councilor-at-Large Michelle Wu. The company claimed politicians like Wu were not acting in their constituents' interest, which East Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards said was motive for the more aggressive regulation plan. 

“This is partly why we chose to be so conservative in this version, because they’ve demonstrated they’re not good actors and they’re not good negotiators,” Edwards told the Herald. "They want to do bullying tactics."