L.A. Could Outlaw Airbnb "Speculators"

Fed up with "speculators" who hoard multiple units in order to rent them out to tourists through sites like Airbnb, a pair of L.A. city leaders today proposed a law that would ban the short-term rental of units that hosts don't actually live in.

The proposal also would prohibit landlords from evicting rent-control tenants for the purpose of making a unit available full-time on Airbnb and similar sites, a spokesman for city Councilman Mike Bonin said.

And hosts would have to start subjecting the rentals to the city's hotel tax.

The local lawmakers behind the would-be regulations, Bonin and City Council president Herb Wesson, suggest that Airbnb rentals have gotten out of hand in some neighborhoods, especially in Venice, which is Bonin's turf.

Speculators are taking much-needed housing stock off the rental market and converting it to short-term rentals, ostensibly because there's more money to be made in the tourism market, the pair suggest.

A statement from Bonin's office put it this way:

As a result of the proliferation of short-term rentals ... there has been a negative impact on some residential neighborhoods, which are changed by a revolving cast of visitors and their impacts. In some popular tourist communities such as Venice, speculators have subverted the “sharing economy” business model, converting regular rental housing into short-term rentals, significantly reducing rental stock and contributing to increased rents and decreased affordable housing. In some cases, large numbers of units in the same building, or entire buildings, have been converted to short-term rentals, operated by off-site management companies.

Airbnb-type rentals also have so far skirted the city's hotel tax.

The councilmen are spinning their idea as one that would essentially legalize Airbnb and similar short-term rental systems aimed mainly at tourists. The ordinance would give Angelenos the ability to rent their homes, spare rooms and back houses to visitors, Bonin's office notes.

"We don’t want to take away someone’s ability to make ends meet by renting out an extra room or guest house, but we cannot tolerate how a growing number of speculators are eliminating rental housing and threatening the character of our neighborhoods," Bonin said.

Airbnb doesn't seem too worried about the proposal. We asked the site for its reaction to the Bonin-Wesson proposal. Here's what a rep sent us:

Home sharing allows people to turn what is typically one of their greatest expenses into a tool to help make ends meet. Almost half of Airbnb hosts in Los Angeles work in the arts, entertainment and recreation industries. While most hosts use Airbnb to pay the bills, their guests generate sustainable, local economic activity that supports small businesses. This proposal demonstrates L.A. is embracing home sharing and the peer-to-peer economy. We look forward to connecting our community with policymakers in the weeks and months ahead.  

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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