AIRBNB BE GONE!


          As if rental housing in general and D.C. tenants in particular did not have enough problems, and as if the survival of rent control, affordable housing and tenants’ rights were not under constant threat, now comes AIRBNB.  Here we have a commercial scheme threatening all of the foregoing, and which is nothing but a fig leaf covering the creation of real or de facto hotels pushed by real estate moguls.  AIRBNB is already accelerating the ultra-commercialization of the city, making the District one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S.  Affordable housing is on the lips of people all over D.C., except that for many that is merely “lip service.”  For most of us, however, it is genuine concern about what is happening to the housing and living environment all around us. DC is turning into another Boca Raton, with a “welcome” sign out for the rich, and an “exit” sign for the poor. 
D.C. is now “Hotsville, USA” for realtors, developers and hoteliers all across the USA.   Among their targets are rental apartment buildings that start out with "partial sublet use" end up as full-fledged hotels.  It reminds us of GWU’s tactics where rental buildings around the campus began with small student populations as “dormitories” and ended up totally absorbed as part of GWU.  We lost 25 rent-controlled buildings in that process.  AIRBNB is using the same “salami tactics” to turn rent controlled apartment building into “boutique” hotels.  We don’t need any more Conrad Hiltons in our midst; we need more Cesar Chavez’s.
Let us be clear - - we are not hostile to the influx of affluent new renters or home buyers, or those renting out space in their homes or apartments for added income so long as they do not destroy rent-controlled housing, displace rent control populations or long term tenants, and respect the rights of those who were here first.  Conversion of a rent-controlled apartment building to an AIRBNB hotel, however, is a pernicious attack on affordable housing – that vanishing option in one of the most expensive U.S. cities to live in.  Profiteering from these assaults on affordable housing, especially rent-controlled housing, is a serious threat to the most vulnerable.  Hit hardest are the disabled, seniors, low income, fixed income, even middle income people, and ultimately, affordable housing itself.
TENAC is striving to keep DC livable and affordable.  TENAC says kudos to Councilmember McDuffie, The Working Family Group whose study revealed the growing problem of short term rentals, the DC Metro Council AFL-CIO, Local 25 Hotel and Restaurant Workers’ Union, the D.C. Attorney General, the UDC Law School, courageous Latinos protesting conversion of their building, and many others, for their commitment to keeping DC affordable, especially rental  housing. 
We strongly urge you to contact the councilmember for your ward and voice your support for Councilmember McDuffie’s bill to regulate Airbnb and other platforms to protect affordable housing. Perhaps most important, we ask that you voice concern that the legislation contain teeth to truly enforce the law which forbids rent control housing to be used as a hotel unit, temporary rental, resort, or ANY type of transient accommodation.

    Currently there appear to be hundreds of rent control units being rented as vacation spots on Airbnb and similar web platforms.  We ask you to remind your councilmembers that the law sets aside rent control apartments for tenants at rent control rates, subject to limited rent increases - - which Airbnb, landlords, management companies, et. al. are ignoring - - hence the need for teeth!

LET THE COUNCIL KNOW! HOW TO CONTACT YOUR WARD COUNCILMEMBER (AND THE AT-LARGE COUNCILMEMBERS - each DC resident is represented by a councilmember for their own ward as well as five At-Large [citywide] Councilmembers who represent all wards) VIA PHONE, USPS LETTER OR EMAIL. YOU CAN SIMPLY COPY & PASTE THE SAMPLE LETTER PROVIDED BELOW, OR EDIT IT OR COMPOSE YOUR OWN, AS YOU WISH. COUNCILMEMBERS' CONTACT INFO, INCLUDING EMAIL, PHONE NUMBER, AND ADDRESS iS AT: http://dccouncil.us/council
 SAMPLE LETTER/EMAIL
My Dear Councilmember:
     As one of your constituents, I am writing to ask you to support Councilmember McDuffie's bill to fix the short-term rental law that AIRBNB and others are using to take rent control apartments off market for use as short term rentals. Such a practice depletes the stock of affordable housing intended by law to preserve affordablilty, and has the potential to turn my building into a 24/7 resort with loud music and other activities unacceptable in residential buildings.
     I also ask that your legislation include enforcement mechanisms with teeth, as currently landlords are ignoring the law and renting hundreds of rent control apartments as expensive vacation rentals.  I ask you to put an end to this abuse that is depriving tenants of affordable housing and is thwarting the intent of the rental laws by supporting Councilmember's McDuffie's bill, and including in it strong enforcement lest it be a law without teeth.  
 Sincerely,
YOUR NAME
YOUR ADDRESS, 
YOUR EMAIL, ETC.
Jim McGrath

 

TENAC Chairman