August 7, 2017

The Neighborhood Has Changed

A report from Outside Online. “In the Mountain West—’God’s country, renter’s hell,’ as one alt-weekly tagged it—where towns are already chronically beset by housing shortages, traffic problems, and the invariable ambivalence about sharing one’s slice of heaven with the tourists who help sustain it, the entrance of Airbnbs and VRBOs and HomeAways has heightened the tension. Some places, including Boulder and Denver, have passed tough regulations that permit only primary residents to rent out their properties for short periods. Other towns have taken the opposite tack, changing laws to allow previously illegal renting that was already on the rise, as happened late last year in Missoula, Montana.”

“In Bozeman, in Ketchum, in Jackson, in just about every destination or gateway town, one hears a similar murmur: not only are short-term rentals squeezing the last drops out of the housing supply. STRs have soared. In 2016, HomeAway had more than 670,000 ‘room nights’ in Colorado alone, up 24 percent from 2015.”

“Early on, says Margaret Bowes, who directs the ­Colorado Association of Ski Towns, STRs ‘were mostly just excess inventory—­someone had an extra room, they weren’t going to rent it out long-term anyway.’ Now, she argues, ‘it’s reached such a point that people buy homes for the sole purpose of renting them.’”

The Miami Herald in Florida. “Here’s something you might not realize: Vacation rental companies, like Airbnb and HomeAway, directly affect the local housing market. As of June 4, there were 9,608 active Airbnb listings in Miami-Dade County, 81 percent of which were for ‘Entire Homes.’ Studies in San Francisco and New York City concluded that ‘Entire Homes’ on Airbnb are detrimental to housing affordability — especially when multiple ‘Entire Homes’ are tied to one owner.”

“The impact on housing affordability of a homeowner who advertises one room or unit at a time is minimal. The impact of commercial operators who advertise two, four, 10 or 20 homes at once is inescapable.”

From WWL TV in Louisiana. “Summers always take their toll on the New Orleans restaurant scene. Multiple eateries have closed their doors this summer, but owners say there are more factors at play than just rising rent. Ian McNulty, food critic for The New Orleans Advocate, says summer is the slow season and the time newer restaurants typically struggle. He also thinks the proliferation of short-term rentals in the Bywater might be playing a role as well, something Minish has also noticed. ‘The neighborhood has changed,’ Minish said. ‘A lot of Air BnB’s have come in.’”

“No matter what the reason, people who call the Bywater home hope they don’t have to say goodbye to anymore local restaurants.”

The Boston Globe in Massachusetts. “The Cambridge City Council is set to vote Monday evening on a measure to limit short-term rentals, capping a year of debate over legalizing a growing industry without threatening the community’s limited housing supply. The measure would require hosts to live in the unit where the rental is located, or in the same building, so long as it has fewer than five units.”

“Currently on Airbnb alone there are more than 1,600 active rentals in Cambridge, according to the research site Airdna. City rules require Cambridge homeowners to get permission to rent for less than a month, but few have secured such permits, said Craig Kelley, the city councilor who has been leading the regulatory push.”

“Nancy Ryan, president of the civic organization called Cambridge Residents Alliance, said she would still like to see the rentals limited to just those units occupied by the host. She believes that change would increase the supply of housing in the community. ‘We’ve been particularly worried, given the cost of real estate in Cambridge, that families can barely afford the rental market here,’ she said. ‘It’s harming our overall supply of rental units, and I think it’s pushing up rental prices.’”

“According to Airdna, 853 of the active Airbnb rentals in Cambridge are entire units; the rest are rooms within a unit or a shared room. The city has about 53,000 housing units, according to its website. Other platforms, including FlipKey and HomeAway, offer similar services to Airbnb’s and would also be affected by the legislation.”

The Toronto Star in Canada. “New research showing Toronto’s top Airbnb’s earners are big commercial players is further evidence of the need for regulations limiting short-term rentals to a person’s principal residence, a senior city staff member said Friday. A draft report by urban planning researchers at McGill University identified Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver’s biggest Airbnb earners as large, commercial hosts with multiple listings, not regular people sharing their homes.”

‘The report says these Airbnb listings are eating into Toronto’s already scarce long-term rental housing stock and an absence of regulatory intervention may threaten the loss of more rental housing units. The city, in its June staff report on the burgeoning short-term rental market, estimated that of the 10,800 properties listed on Airbnb in 2016, 3,200 were not in a principal residence, Carleton Grant, the city’s director of policy and strategic support, said Friday. Those 3,200 units would not be allowed under the city’s proposed regulatory regime, which is intended to protect the long-term rental market for people who live in Toronto, he said.”

“Airbnb disputed the McGill University report’s findings and insists ‘the vast majority of its hosts are middle-class Canadian families sharing their homes to earn a bit of additional income to pay the bills.’ Fairbnb, a coalition of groups pushing for regulation, says no one disputes that. ‘But the fact is that countless non-Airbnb commissioned studies using publicly available data, including ours, have shown that the real money made for Airbnb is made by a small percentage of multi-listing hosts who run ghost hotels,’ said Fairbnb spokesman Thorben Wiedtiz.”

The New York Post. “Beware, landlords who ignore city laws against Airbnb subleasing. In a first-of-its-kind decision, a Manhattan judge has ordered that an independent manager take over two Midtown properties where the owner has allegedly continued to let renters sublease apartments on Airbnb — flouting multiple citations and an injunction ordering him to stop. The state-court decision calls the two properties — at 334 W. 46th St. and 15 W. 55th St. — ‘public nuisances’ and orders that an independent manager be brought in as receiver.”

“Immediately after Monday’s decision, the properties’ owner, Salim Assa, marched his lawyers uptown to the state Appellate Division on Thursday, winning an emergency stay that will forestall any appointment of an independent manager until an appeal is hashed out.”

“In his decision, Justice d’Auguste wrote, ‘It appears that despite receiving over one hundred building and fire violations, criminal court summonses regarding the illegal use and occupancy of the properties, being sued by the City in the instant action, and being enjoined from using the properties as illegal short-term hotels pursuant to the preliminary injunction in place, the Owner Defendants have taken minimal steps to remedy the alleged illegal use and occupancy.’”

From The Guardian. “I’ve never found scrubbing other people’s fecal matter from my toilet seat particularly fun, nor does sharing my shower appeal, and yet this is my daily routine. I’m an Airbnb host. It’s not that I enjoy losing my spare bedroom and my privacy to entertain out of town visitors: I use the platform to be able to pay rent while I go through a difficult financial time. We live in an impoverished area of Los Angeles close to a large convention center and a university. It is not a tourist hub by any means, so demand for my area is not high.”

“If you think that most hosts fit my profile, you should think again. A sizeable chunk of Airbnb’s revenue has not come from the people featured in the company’s promotional videos. Instead, a big part of its revenue has historically been driven by commercial property owners and landlords with multiple properties who rent out everything from luxurious mansions to rent-fixed units intended for long-term residents.”

“Scott Shatford was the first person to be convicted in the city of Santa Monica for snapping up leases on singles and one-bedrooms in extremely desirable locations. At the height of his rental empire, Shatford managed seven properties on Airbnb – none of which he owned, all of which had been intended for long-term residents. After he failed to respond to cease-and-desist letters from the city (he claims he did not receive them), he was finally convicted when the city itself rented four nights in one of his properties – and took him to court.”

“Shatford no longer rents out properties and has moved to Denver with his wife, Julia. He now runs a data analytics company, AirDNA, which scrapes data from Airbnb in order to provide investment information to those who wish to purchase or lease properties specifically for the short-term housing market.”

“, a site run by Murray Cox and Tom Slee, also scrapes data from Airbnb. Their site rose to prominence after they discovered that Airbnb had wiped more than a thousand listings from their site just days before releasing data which they claimed supported their defense that their site was used primarily for home sharing, predominantly by ethnically diverse lower middle class and working class professionals.”

“Property owners illegally listing multiple properties have started to face legal consequences. In June 2016, the city attorney filed a suit which listed a number of Venice Beach properties, most of them rent-fixed, allegedly being used as illegal Airbnb short term rentals after evicting long term tenants. Airbnb is not solely responsible for the short term-housing crisis, but it is a factor. At the back of my mind is the question: if Airbnb didn’t exist, would my rent even be this high?”