Boston Leaders Debate Proposed Airbnb Regulations at Hearing

The Boston City Council held a public hearing Monday, and it could be their last hearing before a crucial vote that would toughen regulations on short-term rentals.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is proposing to reign in the short-term rental industry with what would virtually ban anyone who does not live on the property from renting it out. Those on both sides of the debate packed the room to make their final pitch.

Supporters of the regulations say it would free up housing inventory and improve neighborhood quality, but opponents say it would eliminate their industry, which many consider their livelihood.

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"They are just going to squash my business," Terrence Heinen said, who owns several investor units. "I have cleaners. I have plumbers. I have people who rely on me."

Others say the explosion of short-term rentals has led to an increase of complaints in their residential buildings. Richard Alferis, who lives on Beacon Hill, said his building has been taken over.

"They are drinking all night. They are running in the halls. It is really a safety and security issue. I'm very concerned," Alferis said.

"Our community has serious concerns with the current short-term rental ordinance. It prohibits renters from home sharing and creates bureaucratic hurdles for homeowners," Will Burns, public policy director for Airbnb Massachusetts, said in a statement. "We are pleased our hosts had a platform to show how this proposal will affect their ability to make a little extra income and support their families. Home sharing rules should be simple and fair for all Bostonians, and we look forward to continued work in that direction."

Members of the Boston City Council appeared divided on the topic at Monday's hearing, with many asking for more data before making a decision. The chairman of the committee, Boston City Councilor At-Large Michael Flaherty, will now bring what was discussed at the hearing to the administration before bringing it to a vote.

"They want to be regulated and they don't mind being taxed. They get that part, but they just don't want to be eliminated," Flaherty said. "At the same time, we're trying to balance the residents, constituents and taxpayers as to what's in their best interest."

The soonest a decision could be made is at Wednesday's city council meeting. If it passes as is, the regulations would not take effect until January of 2019, but the council could still move that date.

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