By John Lynds
Longtime Webster Street resident John McCarthy lives next to a property being used as an Airbnb. While he does not begrudge anyone from making a little extra money on the side, he feels there should be some sort of regulation.
“It’s getting out of control,” said McCarthy at last week’s Jeffries Point Neighborhood Association (JPNA) meeting. “I’ll tell you, some of the people renting the Airbnb are not the people you want to live next to.”
McCarthy said he’s had to deal with loud parties, an increase in litter around his building and in the back yard, as well as the discomfort of not knowing who is coming and going week after week.
City Councilor Sal LaMattina has launched a campaign to reel in Airbnb in neighborhoods like East Boston and JPNA members want to be his partner.
JPNA chair, Margaret Farmer, said at the meeting that JPNA members want to begin looking at the impacts of Airbnb’s in the neighborhood and want to work with LaMattina to find solutions.
LaMattina said Airbnb’s primarily affect all his District of Eastie, the North End and Charlestown because of their close proximity to the airport and Downtown Boston.
“The rise of companies like Airbnb, Homeaway and Flipkey and others have created a new market for lodging in cities,” said LaMattina. “However this new innovation is creating challenges for residents.”
LaMattina said his number one concern is protecting residents.
“What I hear from my constituents is that short-term rentals are affecting their quality of life,” said LaMattina. “Currently there are 467 designated Airbnb units in my district that I am aware of and there might be more and that is not including the other companies. Residents are dealing with noise and unknown visitors in their multi-unit buildings. Without a registration policy in place, are we able to ensure the safety of these rentals? For example, we should explore the difference in fire safety standards for rental units versus hotel, motel, or inns.”
LaMattina added that the rental stock in Eastie is also being affected and rental prices are being pressured upwards.
“Units that could go toward keeping families in the city, or more affordable housing are being lost because these units are operating as mini-hotels, not merely renting an unused bedroom, but removing properties from the local housing stock,” said LaMattina. “I am very, very concerned about investors buying up properties and using them for short term rentals.”
LaMattina said in Eastie alone there are 185 Airbnb listings and only 86 are entire homes or apartments with most being single room listings.
LaMattina also said at the meeting that the city needs to look at how much in taxes is being lost by unregulated Airbnb rentals.
“I think it’s important to create parity with the hotel industry, and to capture this revenue for the City,” said LaMattina. “Based on Airbnb’s revenue last year of $50 million, if hotel tax rates are applied, the City would have received $7.425 million in tax revenue. We need to look at this.”
LaMattina told JPNA members that he’s looking to adopt policies that would maintain a residential list of each participating Airbnb property.
He said he wants to create licensing requirements around safety standards as well as place potential limits on participating properties to ensure the safety of neighbors and communities.
He also wants to address the parity of the taxation of short-term rentals and other hospitality lodging like hotels.