On November 13, the D.C. Council voted unanimously to highly regulate its local short-term rental industry, following the terrible direction of cities like San Francisco and New York City.

The Short-term Rental Regulation Act of 2018 would prevent hosts from renting out spare rooms on their property for more than 90 days per year if they are not in the residence, and bar the short-term rental of all second-homes. It also requires hosts to obtain licenses, install smoke detectors, and pay for liability insurance out-of-pocket. A similarly limiting home-sharing policy enacted earlier this year in San Francisco has proven its inefficiency and capacity for targeting hosts, as the city reported 50% less listings within a year of its passage.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) should consider the implications of such a bill and the burden it will impose on local hosts and DC residents.  

Proponents of the bill claim that the Airbnb market has placed constraints on the availability of affordable housing in the city—Airbnb’s statistics state differently. According to the company, homes shared for more than 182 nights per year occupy 0.22 percent of DC houses, the equivalent of 700 residences.

The current bill would strip hosts of both majority and minority zip codes anywhere between $18 and $26 million in extra income. By limiting rentals to 90 days, the Council is curtailing additional industry growth and placing an unfair constraint on residents capitalizing on their properties.   

Jackie Havard, a local District Airbnb host, stated that “Taking my small business away is not going to solve affordable housing. It’s so easy to say that and say it’s supply and demand and end it there and feel like you’ve won the argument. But that’s just not the case. Affordable housing is much more complicated.” Havard rents the families second home to pay their mortgage, utilities, and medical bills.

In opposition to the bill, in a letter addressed to Councilman Kenyan McDuffie, tech groups added,  “Vacation and short-term rental platforms including Airbnb, HomeAway, and VRBO both enhance consumer choice and enable economic opportunity for DC residents and neighborhoods. Denying families affordable, convenient lodging options will unnecessarily and arbitrarily limit tourism.”

Given the large influx of interns, foreign officials, and temporary workers that DC hosts annually, the city has an acute need for short-term housing options. As the bill will limit D.C.’s ability to fulfill this need, Mayor Bowser should learn from the mistakes of San Francisco and refuse to sign the measure into law.