After years of banning short term rentals, West Hollywood is on the brink of joining hundreds of cities across the country who have legitimized home sharing and allowed everyday people like myself to leverage what is typically our largest asset -our home- to earn extra income to make ends meet. For lifelong West Hollywood residents like myself, that is welcome news.
Home sharing has been a lifeline for me during difficult times. Despite graduating summa cum laude from UCLA, automation and ageism have pretty much eliminated me from the job market. I never thought I’d find myself in this situation, but after years of struggling, I discovered Airbnb.
It allows me to leverage my extra bedroom to make ends meet and gives me the flexibility to host my son when he visits from New York a few times a year that I wouldn’t have if I had a long term roommate.
As the City Council prepares to host another hearing to discuss the issue of short-term rentals, I hope city leaders take into consideration the impact that proposed regulations would have on residents like myself who rely on home sharing to survive.
The current proposed ordinance would lift the current ban on short-term rentals and hosts to share their primary homes. While this is a step in the right direction, the proposed regulations would also impose an arbitrary 90-day cap on hosted stays and prohibit residents from sharing their home when traveling for work or leisure.
Restricting the number of days residents can rent out the homes they live in does little to address nuisance or quality of life issues that opponents claim threaten their neighborhood. This only deprives residents of the income they rely on to make ends meet. Some city leaders agree. In hearings earlier this year, members of three city commissions expressed concerns with the current 90-day proposal and two of three commissions voted to increase the cap.
While community leaders have expressed concerns over the impact short-term rentals have on neighborhoods and local affordable housing, many cities and counties have found middle ground to enact regulations that address possible negative impacts and harness the economic benefits.
Cities such as Jersey City, N.J., Philadelphia, Penn., and San Jose have implemented sensible regulations that make home sharing available to the majority of their residents and preserve the economic activity it generates for businesses and local governments.
Just this week, the city of Seattle enacted short-term rental rules that allow hosts to share both their primary residences and secondary listings. In addition, the city is working with Airbnb on a deal to collect transient occupancy taxes that could generate millions in revenue.
Although each city is different, West Hollywood should adopt a similar balanced approach. Adopting policies that preserve the benefits of home sharing for the majority of West Hollywood residents would ensure locals, and not just hotels, directly benefit from the city’s vibrant tourism industry.
In addition to the income I earn, my guests help support the local economy. In the past year alone, Airbnb hosts welcomed more than 56,000 guests to the city. These visitors are a new source of customers for small businesses in West Hollywood. In fact, 94% of Airbnb hosts recommend local businesses to their guests. At a time when brick and mortar stores in the community are struggling to keep up with competition from online retailers, home sharing is bringing customers and foot traffic to neighborhood businesses.
City officials should also consider entering into an agreement with short-term rental platforms like Airbnb to collect local transient occupancy taxes from guests. If such an agreement were in place, the City of West Hollywood would have collected nearly $2 million dollars in additional revenue this year to fund city services.
We know that the most successful legislation should be both reasonable and fair. West Hollywood has the opportunity to join other cities who have shown leadership in addressing this issue. Next Monday, city leaders should do the right thing and pass rules that economically empower hosts to earn extra income, provide affordable travel options for guests, and strengthen communities by offering the kind of sustainable, healthy tourism that would be a win-win for everyone.