L.A. City Council to Vote on Regulations for Airbnb

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles City Council's two-year effort to craft a policy for Airbnb and other short-term home rental services is set to finally come to a vote today -- although the proposed ordinance would still need further analysis and meetings before becoming law.

The proposed home-sharing ordinance was approved last month by the Planning and Land Use Management Committee after it debated the issue for several years. It would limit homeowners and landlords who wish to rent out rooms or full homes to 120 days per year unless they petition the city for more time.

The city does not have an ordinance regulating Airbnb, which connects travelers with hosts looking to rent out their home or a bedroom in their home, but struck a deal with the company in 2016 for it to pay hotel taxes on behalf of its hosts under a three-year agreement.

``This ordinance allows the city to protect our housing supply, as well as the quality-of-life of our residents from bad operators, while ensuring the home-sharing rental industry is fairly regulated and contributing to Los Angeles' economy,'' said Councilman Jose Huizar, chair of the Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

Huizar's committee worked to craft a policy that balanced the wishes of rental hosts who say home-sharing is a vital source of income that allows them to keep living in their homes, and critics who say it is contributing to the city's housing shortage while also leading to a proliferation of Airbnb ``party houses'' with loud and unruly guests.

A host who wants to go above the 120-day cap would have to meet certain criteria, including that the property has not been the subject of any recent nuisance violations. Neighbors who border the property would also be notified of the cap request and have an opportunity to voice their opinion, although neighbors could not ``veto'' the cap request, as had been under consideration for a time by Huizar's committee.

The proposed ordinance also would set up a streamlined permitting process for good operators and define what constitutes a violation, which is any enforcement from an agency or department of the city of Los Angeles. After two violations, an operator's home-sharing permit will revoked. The policy also would create a ban on home-sharing use in Rent Stabilization/Covenanted Affordable units.

The city's Office of Finance estimates that the city will collect $46 million in Transient Occupancy Taxes from Airbnb this fiscal year, which ends in July, although there has been no limits on rental days and a 120-day cap would likely reduce that number in future years.

If the City Council approves the proposed ordinance, it will go to the City Planning Commission for consideration. The proposed ordinance would also then need to be drafted by the City Attorney's Office before coming back for approval by the council.

The proposed ordinance requires a home listed by Airbnb or a similar service to serve as the host's primary residence, but last month the Housing Committee also voted to have a report on a potential new ordinance drafted that would regulate vacation rentals, although the committee did not give any guidance as to what it wanted the second ordinance to include.

The Department of City Planning said in a report that there were about 456,000 nights booked on Airbnb alone in 2016, and an estimated 550,000 nights booked by all home-sharing companies in 2017. The department also estimated that removing the cap for primary residences could result in the continued loss/conversion of about 1,500-2,500 units of housing per year to full time short-term rental activity.

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