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Cambridge Petitions to Restrict Short-Term Rentals

The Cambridge City Council opted for short-term rentals, such as those that are found when booking online with Airbnb, to be in the same building. With over 600 listings, Cambridge contains the highest number of rentals per acre, specifically in the Greater Boston area.

The city council had an issue with the emergence of these rentals, which are run through sites like Airbnb. It has raised concerns, particularly over safety and quality for some policymakers. There are already some communities that have local restrictions on their short-term rentals, but the state Legislature is now considering proposals to implement tax and to control the market throughout the whole Massachusetts.

The Governments are Trying to Catch Up

With the rise of several websites allowing people to find and book for an accommodation easily for a short-term period, the authorities are working fast to make sure they do not get left behind. Craig Kelly, the Cambridge City Councilor, recognizes the role of the Internet in changing how businesses are getting done these days. The impact is so immense that the government needs to figure out how it can help in such cases.

The goal of the authorities is not to put a stop on the wheel of progress. What it wants is to know how what to do in case things get out of control. With everything in fast-paced motion, Kelley advocates for the city to maintain a policy that would regulate these short-term rentals.

The Statewide Effort

This rental market has indeed created an opportunity for several people, especially when it comes to economic potential in Massachusetts. However, it has also created some issues for security and quality of life. Cambridge is working with other cities on a municipal level. However, the Statehouse is also interested in proposing pieces of legislation.

Governor Charlie Baker and state Senator Eric Lesser have all recommended to subject these rentals to have regulations and taxes that are similar to hotels. Cities and towns are allowed to enact regulations when it comes to zoning and the usage of land. However, they do not have the power to collect taxes because the Legislature needs to approve first.

The Problem with Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb was founded in 2008 in the city of San Francisco. It has expanded quickly and is now one of the top online platforms for people who want to rent out their homes or spaces in their homes for just a short period of time. The users are allowed to rent as many rooms as they want, or they can choose to have the entire home overnight. The user will also be the one to offer the price and dates as well as the conditions for the guests.

Websites such as HomeAway and Flipkey have the same services. These accommodations are an alternative to hotels and many people turn to them because they are less expensive.

The Senate has already proposed a budget that would put an excise tax of five percent on these rentals. With such proposal, it would allow cities and towns to collect the tax up to six percent. In Boston, the allowed tax percentage is 6.5.

The spokesperson for Airbnb has stated that the company fully supports the measure of the senate to remit and collect taxes from the community where the rental is hosted. The issue should come up in a budget conference with the House, which chose to discuss the matter independently from the budget.

State Representative Aaron Michlewitz said that there are key differences between the rental portion of short-term rentals and his bill. The latter would include a baseline safety as well as regulations for consumer protection.

Varying Approaches in Communities

Other towns and cities have already examined the issue with short-term rentals. Cape Cod, for instance, has discussed the taxing house rentals but they overlooked the properties as they did not list and track them. The representatives and the executive directors of different commissions agree that there should be a mechanism that would allow the collection of taxes.

As for the Cambridge City Council, there is a proposal submitted to limit the units of the short-term rentals just to be occupied by the primary leaseholder or the owner with only one adjacent unit.