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The Most Impactful Regulation in DC From 2019 That Can’t Seem to Get Finalized

by Nena Perry-Brown

An Airbnb rental in Logan Circle that used to be a firehouse.

It's that time of year again when UrbanTurf reflects on some of DC’s most interesting real estate topics from the last 12 months. This week, we refresh your memory on some of the best, most intriguing and most peculiar things we came across throughout 2019. Enjoy.


Over a year ago, the DC Council passed the Short-term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act, a bill intended to establish regulations for the city's short-term rental (STR) industry. However, nearly three months after the law was scheduled for implementation, the STR industry, for which Airbnb is the poster child, remains unregulated.

The new law granted the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) purview over short-term rentals, requiring hosts to get licensed, restricting STRs to primary residences, and establishing an annual 90 day cap for hosts who are not on the premises. However, the law also threatened to automatically disqualify hundreds of listings, because the (then-unenforced) zoning code prohibited short-term lodging in residentially-zoned areas in DC.

To avoid the upheaval that would come with the disqualification of these units, weeks prior to the vote on the bill, the DC Council requested the Zoning Commission amend the zoning code to permit STRs in residential zones, kicking off the first round of the waiting game.

Days later, the Zoning Commission asked the Office of Planning to issue a report recommending how the commission should address defining STRs. Meanwhile, the bill passed in the Council and not much else happened until July, when Council Chair Phil Mendelson applied for a Zoning Text Amendment to add STRs to the code.

The Office of Planning issued its report in September, and a Commission hearing was then scheduled for mid-October. Meanwhile, the October 1st implementation date for the new law came and went while DCRA waited for clarity on the zoning.

Two months ago, the Zoning Commission unanimously approved OP's recommendation on an emergency basis, defining short-term rentals in the zoning code based on the Short-Term Rental Regulation Act. At a Council in early December, DCRA Director Ernest Chrappah testified that draft rules for how the law will be enforced are currently under review.

He also stated that DCRA will hold public meetings, and that once the agency is ready to start accepting licensing applications for STRs, there will still be a 90-day grace period before enforcement begins. Considering how much confusion surrounds the bill, perhaps the grace period is a good idea.

Other 2019 Year in Review Articles:

See other articles related to: short-term rental, dcra, best of 2019

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/most-impactful-regulation-that-cant-seem-to-get-finalized-dcs-short-term-re/16226

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