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Tangney: Airbnb restriction proposal could keep Seattle from becoming a ‘hotel town’

(File, Associated Press)

A proposal from Seattle City Councilmember Tim Burgess and Mayor Ed Murray would add regulations for short-term home rentals such as online platforms like Airbnb and VRBO.

The impetus for the proposal is the same as has been discussed in big cities like San Francisco, New York and Santa Monica: to ease the rental crunch.

The Seattle Times reports that the new regulations would cover all non-hotel bookings of 30 or fewer consecutive nights. Only people using the property as their primary residence would be allowed to operate short-term rentals year-round. Those who are not would be limited to 90 nights for the year.

Related: Amazon convenient scapegoat for rising Seattle rent, but there’s more to the story

KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney explained that it’s not that the city begrudges Seattleites trying to make extra money renting out a room or apartment, but there is a concern over corporations buying properties as investments for Airbnb, which take rental possibilities off the market.

“Instead, investment corporations buying more and more buildings and properties for profit, turning Seattle into a hotel town instead of a residential one,” he said.

Co-host John Curley views the situation from a different, free-market perspective. Curley created a scenario where a family – the Smith’s–  tried to sell their long-time home and received plenty of market-value offers but were then blown out of the water by a corporation willing to pay much more for the property.

“People in Seattle don’t like the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Smith have given to the highest bidder because the bidder now will take that property and turn it over and make money with it,” he said. “So tell me, at what point was the law broken? Was it broken by Mr. and Mrs. Smith wanting the most amount of money for their property, or is it the buyer who wants to turn it into something?”

But Tom says John is missing the point.

Tom Tangney: “It’s just like how we have zoning areas. You can’t open a business in a neighborhood unless it’s zoned for business. So this is in effect a zoning aspect that says you can still rent out your place but you can’t do it for more than 90 days in a calendar year unless you live in the property. If you live at the property, then you can do it. It’s a minor restriction but it does impact what the future of Seattle is going to become. There are entire floors of apartment buildings that are just basically hotels and that affects the quality of life for people trying to live here.”

John Curley: “When it comes to restrictions in zoning for commercial purpose, it’s because you don’t want somebody living next to some business that’s making Pad Thai, and the smell of Pad Thai and the dumpster, parking, noise, etc. So they keep the commercial and residential separate. This reason is that they don’t want inventory to be taken up that could be sold to citizens.”

TT: “They don’t want people choosing tourists over tenants.”

The Times reports that Airbnb s not opposed to the regulations, but are concerned about compelling the companies like Airbnb to turn over “personal, confidential information about the people who use our service.”

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