West Hollywood fires latest broadside against Airbnb

The city bans renters, but not owners from hosting short-term stays

Airbnb rentals in West Hollwood (Airbnb, Creative Commons)
Airbnb rentals in West Hollwood (Airbnb, Creative Commons)

West Hollywood has voted to ban renters from making money from short-term apartment stays, the latest salvo in its increasingly contentious battle with Airbnb.

The City Council voted to approve the ordinance on Monday. It allows home and condominium owners to rent out a portion of their residence for short stays, but makes it illegal for renters to do the same.

Still, homeowners will have to abide by certain conditions to be able to use platforms like Airbnb or VRBO, according to a report in WEHOville. For example, homeowners must be in the residence at least four hours a day, while condo owners will have to gain approval from their homeowners association before renting the unit out.

Officials who voted for the ban cited concerns about West Hollywood’s growing unaffordability. Some landlords are even pushing tenants out of rent-controlled apartments so they can charge premium prices for Airbnb guests, according to the report.

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In response, Airbnb said the Council’s decision “discriminates against a significant portion of the residents” and is “out of touch.”

Councilmembers John Duran and John D’Amico said the city is denying a lucrative opportunity to lower-income renters. An unregulated black market looms large, Duran said.

In September 2015, the city banned short-term rentals of 30 days or less. But after problems with enforcement, the Council reconsidered.

In Santa Monica, similar laws have made Airbnb rentals illegal. Still, Airbnb and its hosts there made roughly $31 million over the last two years through a variety of loopholes, according to a city report released last month.

Hosts in the City of Los Angeles made a total of $262.6 million in 2016. That’s more than any other city in California, according to Airbnb. But income from Airbnb rentals is often significant. Statewide, California hosts took in a median annual income of $8,200. [WV] — Natalie Hoberman