ANC testimony concerning short-term rental legislation

Bill 22-92, “Short Term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2017”
Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Testimony by Jon Stewart, ANC 1D01

Thank you, Chairman Mendelson and Councilmembers, for hearing my testimony on the proposed bill today. My name is Jon Stewart and I am an ANC commissioner from Mount Pleasant, ANC 1D. My testimony represents ANC 1D.

There are obviously large forces on either side of the issue. Our commission has been lobbied by both, but Mount Pleasant is, as you probably know, very engaged in civic issues and keeps its own counsel. There was broad consensus in our community on the proposed legislation, which, I’m sure that Councilmember Nadeau will stipulate, is a significant fact in its own right. I hope you hear my testimony in that light.

Not long after the bill was proposed, the ANC began to hear from residents. Seeing that there was interest, we actively solicited feedback. Mount Pleasant is not close to hotels, our houses are small, and many residents appreciate having short-term rentals available in the neighborhood for when family comes to visit, as it’s convenient and offers homier quarters than most hotels. Mount Pleasant also cares greatly about DC's affordable housing crisis and we heard some general concerns about the possible impact of short-term rentals on affordable housing. However, we heard very specific feedback from residents opposed to this bill. After consideration, ANC 1D unanimously passed a detailed resolution opposing the bill in its current form. You should all have received a copy of our resolution.

Let me state our specific objections. We are skeptical that the proposed regulation would have much positive impact on the affordable housing crisis in Mount Pleasant. We feel that the limit of 15 days per year on vacation rentals is extremely limiting to homeowners, many of whom work for federal agencies, international organizations, and nonprofits and travel for long periods of time. They can earn a bit from renting their homes while traveling. We do not feel that homeowners renting rooms, their own homes, or English basements should be subjected to the proposed licensing requirements nor the severe fines—our homeowners don't need more DCRA in their lives. We understand there's concern about so-called "commercial operators", but we think that regulation needs to be carefully targeted and we feel that a Council-funded, unbiased study would be a good first step at understanding the problem.

I'd like to tell you about two short-term rental operators in my SMD. The first is a college professor, an immigrant with academic and familial ties back to his home country. During the summer break, his family travels back to his home country, to visit family and support his research, and they rent out their home using short-term rental platforms. That very much helps him afford his mortgage. He'd quickly run into the 15 day limit, and his usage of short-term rental platforms has no impact on affordable housing.

The second is a couple who bought a grand home in Mount Pleasant, decades ago when the neighborhood was far more affordable. They still work, but their income is modest. They've built equity in their home, but their property taxes have greatly increased. To continue to afford their home, they now operate their home as a traditional bed-and-breakfast to supplement their income. They use AirBNB to market their BNB, handle 

booking, vet their guests, and receive payment. It works very well. Their home is not multi-unit, it just has several bedrooms, so their usage of AirBNB also has no impact on affordable housing. The regulation envisioned by this legislation would be a big hassle for them, and the loss of their AirBNB income would likely force them to sell their home.

Councilmember McDuffie, after our ANC passed its resolution, your legislative director, Ms. Mitchell, engaged our commission on our stance. We appreciated that engagement and hope your office found our feedback helpful.

Thank you again for hearing my testimony.