DC Council Delays Vote on Short-Term Rental Regulatory Bill

by Nena Perry-Brown

DC Council Delays Vote on Short-Term Rental Regulatory Bill: Figure 1
An Airbnb on Capitol Hill.

Those who expected a final vote on legislation that would regulate short-term rentals in DC today will have to wait a bit longer.

As currently written, the Short-term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2018 would permit short-term rentals without time limits in owner-occupied properties, while prohibiting the short-term rental of units that are not owner-occupied, and limiting short-term rentals in primary residences to 90 days a year when the owner is not present.

A multi-part amendment was introduced during final reading on Tuesday, primarily clarifying a few technicalities and establishing that the regulations go into effect on October 1, 2019. This delayed implementation date would allow the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) time to create an enforcement structure.

The amendments, however, prompted a round of debate on the dais, as some councilmembers expressed discomfort with future revenue projections being used to pay for enforcement of the new regulations — particularly due to the estimated revenue from short-term rentals which would be lost if the bill passed. Council Chair Phil Mendelson stated that, without this provision, the regulations passed by the bill would be unenforceable.

Another issue that came up is the currently unenforced zoning regulation which bans short-term rentals in residential zones. 

"I've prepared a letter, which I'll ask my colleagues to sign, to the Zoning Commission that asks them to revise the zoning regulations so that there isn't this conflict," Mendelson said during discussion about the amendments. "We talked about this at the [legislative] breakfast, that we would ask the Zoning Commission to relax its prohibition, which would have an effect on the revenues."

When councilmembers David Grosso, Charles Allen, Anita Bonds and Brianne Nadeau each questioned aspects of the amendment and its language, Mendelson was initially steadfast in wanting to move forward with today's vote, stating that, if a regulatory bill didn't move forward and DCRA begins to enforce the current zoning regulations, then 90 percent of short-term rentals could be lost anyway. 

However, Mendelson eventually withdrew the amendment and proposed the vote be delayed.

"I would rather postpone this matter for two weeks so that we can all understand the financial implication, than to go forward with the unreadiness that I'm sensing here," he explained. He also back-tracked on the idea that short-term rentals were in immediate jeopardy after Councilmember Trayon White suggested something be done by the council in the interim to instruct DCRA not to enforce zoning prohibitions.

The bill will be voted on November 13th.

Updated with Airbnb's response: "We were disappointed to see Chairman Mendelson try to deceive his own Council and ram an amendment through that would sacrifice the city’s budget surplus to fund a $104 million hole created by these hotel-backed regulations. The negative fiscal impacts of this proposal -- for taxpayers, families who share their homes, and neighborhood businesses -- are real and so we are glad cooler minds prevailed and this vote was delayed."

See other articles related to: short-term rental, dc council, airbnb dc, airbnb

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/dc-council-approves-amended-short-term-rental-regulatory-bill/14575

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