Short-Term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2018: A Small-Scale Fix to the Affordable Housing Crisis in D.C.

In November 2018, the Council of the District of Columbia (D.C.) unanimously approved the Short-Term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2018 (B22-0092).[1] Originally introduced in January 2017 by Councilmember Kenyan R. McDuffie,[2]  B22-0092 regulates the short-term housing rental industry in D.C., thereby affecting homeowners, short-term tenants, investors, and companies such as Airbnb and HomeAway.  Intended to make housing that was previously only used to accommodate short-term renters available to long-term renters, the act makes it illegal to rent out entire spare homes where no permanent resident occupies the property.[3]  In theory, this would increase the supply of housing options in D.C., making housing less competitive and more affordable.[4]  In practice, however, this bill provides no remedy for making housing more affordable in D.C., taking for granted that short-term rental owners will decide to become landlords.  This bill cannot guarantee that housing will be more accessible in D.C., but it will guarantee a loss of income to a majority of short-term rental hosts and a major expense to D.C. taxpayers who will now pick up the tab to enforce this act.

Proponents of the bill suggest that people who own second homes that they do not occupy for more than ninety consecutive days in a year and only rent to short term renters are removing potential long-term housing from the market.[5]  Proponents further argue that the attractive profits of short-term rentals encourage investors to buy housing units solely for the purpose of short-term rentals.[6]  They allege that people and companies are operating pseudo-hotels by renting out rooms and multiple apartments without the proper licensing or zoning to do so while occupying spaces that could otherwise be available for long-term renters.[7]

This bill will present costs to both short-term rental unit owners and to D.C. as a whole.  The loss of tax revenue coupled with the administrative costs of the bill will cost the District an estimated $21.7 million in fiscal year 2019 and $104 million over the next four years.[8]  The bill will also close off an important revenue source for many of D.C.’s short-term rental providers.  Additionally, there has been no indication from current Airbnb hosts who list entire homes for rent that they will completely transition to become landlords.[9]  Some may retain their spare properties for private use or sell their properties, which will benefit people looking to purchase a home in D.C rather than present an affordable rent.[10]

Sixty-four of the Airbnb listings in D.C. are for entire homes.[11]  An estimated forty-three percent of hosts have more than one listing, many of whom are hosts listing multiple bedrooms within a single house.[12]  An unknown number of hosts also double as property managers.[13]  They manage a listing for the actual owners by administering keys, maintaining the cleanliness of a unit, and facilitating communication with renters on behalf of the owners.[14]  This bill, which is intended to address only hosts with multiple properties who comprise a maximum of 43.2 percent of Airbnb rentals,[15] will instead affect an estimated 100 percent of the hosts through excessively strict legislation.[16]

In 2014, San Francisco passed a similar act to also address the access to affordable housing.[17]  Before the act passed, there were 8,453 Airbnb listings in San Francisco.[18]  After the act was passed, only 2,168 met the requirements.[19]  Some hosts switched their offerings to allow short-term renters housing only if they rented for more than thirty days to ensure compliance with the San Francisco act.[20] Despite legislative efforts to limit short-term housing rentals in the city, San Francisco continues to have the highest housing rent prices of any city in the United States.[21] The D.C. Short-Term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2018 and similar legislative remedies, such as the act in San Francisco, fail to actually address shortages in affordable housing.  Instead, they impose a greater burden on current residents trying to earn additional income to keep up with the rising cost of living. Affordable housing is a major issue in large cities, and D.C. is no stranger to this problem.  Cities should act progressively to address larger issues such as the suspension of the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule,[22] unsustainable gentrification, and de facto segregation which all contribute in various ways to the affordability of housing in D.C. and across the United States.


[1] Robert McCartney & Peter Jamison, D.C. Council Gives Final Approval to Tight Limits on Airbnb and Other Home-Sharing Companies. Wash. Post (Nov. 13, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/dc-council-gives-final-approval-to-tight-limits-on-airbnb-and-other-homesharing-companies/2018/11/13/04aa1240-e6d3-11e8-bbdb-72fdbf9d4fed_story.html?utm_term=.5691ab294c17.

[2] Short-Term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2017, B22-0092, 22nd Council (D.C. 2017).

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Memorandum from the Chief Fin. Officer on the Revised Fiscal Impact Statement – Short-term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2018 to the Chairman, Council of D.C. (Oct. 15, 2018) (on file with the Gov. of D.C. Office of the Chief Fin. Officer).

[7] Abha Bhattarai, D.C. Sues Company for Allegedly Treating Rent-Control Apartments Like ‘Hotel Rooms’, Wash. Post (Apr. 25, 2017), https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/dc-sues-company-for-allegedly-treating-rent-control-apartments-like-hotel-rooms/2017/04/25/e42ebb50-291a-11e7-a616-d7c8a68c1a66_story.html?utm_term=.cb897535d70c

[8] Memorandum from the Chief Fin. Officer on the Revised Fiscal Impact Statement, supra note 6.

[9] Tyler Blint-Welsh, East of the Anacostia, Where There are no Hotels, Airbnb has Been a Boon for Property Owners and Guests, Wash. Post (Feb. 13, 2019), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/east-of-the-anacostia-where-there-are-no-hotels-airbnb-has-been-a-been-a-boon-for-property-owners-and-guests/2018/10/28/35f6bb14-d7d8-11e8-83a2-d1c3da28d6b6_story.html?utm_term=.e8cd95baf53a.

[10] Id.

[11] Washington, D.C., Inside Airbnb, (Nov. 15, 2018), http://insideairbnb.com/washington-dc/?neighbourhood=&filterEntireHomes=false&filterHighlyAvailable=false&filterRecentReviews=false&filterMultiListings=false.

[12] Id.

[13] See Lautaro Grinspan, Meet the DC Couple Who Manage 60 Airbnb Listings, Washingtonian (Feb. 8, 2019), https://www.washingtonian.com/2018/10/25/meet-the-dc-couple-who-manage-60-airbnb-listings/.

[14] Id.

[15] Washington, D.C., Inside Airbnb.

[16] Memorandum from the Chief Fin. Officer on the Revised Fiscal Impact Statement, supra note 6.

[17] Ordinance 140381 (S.F., Cal., 2014).

[18] Carolyn Said, Airbnb Loses Thousands of Hosts in SF as Registration Rules Kick In, S.F. CHRON. (Jan. 14, 2018),

https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Airbnb-loses-thousands-of-hosts-in-SF-as-12496624.php.

[19] Id.

[20] See id.

[21] Kerri Anne Renzulli, 10 Most Expensive Cities to Be a Renter, Money (Apr. 8, 2016),

http://time.com/money/4287132/most-expensive-cities-to-rent/.

[22] Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: Streamlining and Enhancements, 83 Fed. Reg. 40,713 (Aug. 16, 2018).

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