airbnb Update

If all of airbnb were good or all of airbnb were bad it would be easy for cities to deal with airbnb. But the problem is that part of airbnb is good and part is not.

There are two primary types of airbnb rental listings:

  1. airbnb host-resident “Private Room” rental listings and
  2. airbnb host-absent “Entire Place” listings

As described below, many cities treat both types of airbnb listings and hosts the same. Doing so creates unnecessary confusion and political discord.

With this in mind, I have looked at this issue for over 2 years in Portland and nationwide. My conclusions are these:

1) airbnb host-resident “private room” rentals (where the host is resident during the guest’s stay to host the guest) should be encouraged and supported. The City may decide to limit these to a maximum of two guest rooms. These are really micro-B&Bs and do not create traffic, noise or parking problems. And, at worst, they only limit the number of long-term roommate rentals. They usually offer a great value to the traveling public including friends and visiting local residents and hospitals. (In Portland, Oregon “private room” rentals are usually $50 to $90 per night.) This is where airbnb started and shines. Usually, public hearings are filled with airbnb “private room” rental hoss who tell heart-warming stories. (As an innkeeper of  a traditional B&B, I have hosted over 25,000 guests over 15 years and can tell the same heart-warming stories.) It is a mistake to alienate these airbnb hosts.

2) airbnb host-absent “entire place” (whole house or apartment) rentals, when offered on an ongoing basis, should be treated as “vacation rentals”. These rentals create the airbnb horror stories and irritated neighbors. These rentals tend to as expensive as traditional hotels and B&Bs. If there is a housing shortage, these “entire place” rentals convert month-to-month rentals for locals to short-term rentals for tourists just so the property owner can make more money renting short-term than long-term. Also, I believe these rentals have become the larger part of airbnb revenue because the nightly rental is more expensive. For example, in Portland, Oregon there are over 2,000 “entire place” listings most of them unlicensed. “Vacation Rentals” are not new, but existed mostly in resort areas. And, Vacation Rentals have been heavily regulated for decades in these resort areas.  What is new is the concept of an “urban vacation rental”. Previously the closest you came in cities was “corporate housing”.  Each city needs to decide how many “vacation rentals” they want to support. Airbnb “entire place” rental hosts generally do not testify at public hearings.

3) There is also a grey area in between. These include accessory dwelling units (ADUs), two flats, mother-in-law apartments, and vacation homes that are occupied by their owners for 3 or more months a year. Each City needs to decide how to regulate these based on their housing priorities.

A final point, airbnb’s impact on local housing varies by neighborhood. Some areas are affected greatly, others not at all. Looking at citywide averages (provided by airbnb) can be misleading.