Last-minute policy tweak could hand Airbnb a key victory in LA

City Council could consider an amendment allowing home-sharing at owner-occupied rent-stabilized homes

TRD LOS ANGELES /
Oct.October 30, 2019 08:01 AM
The city of Los Angeles is considering allowed rent-stabilized units to be used for home shares. (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)
The city of Los Angeles is considering allowed rent-stabilized units to be used for home shares. (Credit: Getty Images and iStock)

An 11th-hour change to Los Angeles’ short-term rental ordinance could dramatically increase the number of properties allowed to list on Airbnb and similar platforms.

The L.A. City Council on Wednesday could consider an ordinance amendment by council member Mitch O’Farrell to allow home-sharing at owner-occupied homes that are rent-stabilized.

The current ordinance, set to go into effect Friday, issues a blanket ban on home shares on rent-stabilized units, which make up the bulk of L.A. apartments built before Oct. 1, 1978. There are about 600,000 such units in the city.

The measure, which passed the city’s planning committee last week without opposition, could be a boon to Airbnb and other competitors in the short-term rental space, businesses that have spent the past four years wrestling with Mayor Eric Garcetti and council members over regulation facing their industry.

Garcetti has not taken a position on the measure. A spokesperson for the mayor reached Tuesday afternoon said that Garcetti has been “actively involved” in working to improve the ordinance, but declined to elaborate.

According to one pro-homeshare group, Homeshare Alliance Los Angeles, about 7,400 rent-stabilized homes in L.A. regularly engage in short-term rentals, though the figure includes tenants that have listed on various platforms.

“The amendment is huge for hosts,” said Chani Krich, of Homeshare Alliance, which claims to be independent of Airbnb and other short-term rental companies.

The ban on rent-stabilized units for short-term stays stemmed from concerns about the city’s lack of affordable housing stock, an issue that has gripped L.A. politics during the Garcetti administration.

Council members moved for the ban last fall, arguing that leasing rent-controlled apartments should be for long-term tenants, instead of short-term guests.

O’Farrell moved to undo the ban because the council member’s East Side district is one of several L.A. districts that contains a “high density of older housing stock,” said O’Farrell’s policy director Christine Peters, including myriad “cute, little Spanish duplexes.”

Owner-occupied units engaging in short-term rentals is a natural fit for L.A, Peters said, because there are a lot of entertainment industry workers who can leave on projects for consecutive weeks – enough time to rent out their homes for short-term stays, but not enough for long-term tenants.

Peters noted that the amendment does not allow multifamily landlords at rent-stabilized dwellings to engage in short-term rentals, unless it is their primary residence. It also does not let renters to do so, though Peters said the council member may seek to amend the ordinance at a later date.

Affordable housing proponents have not yet spoken out against the O’Farrell amendment. One such advocate, James Elmendorf, policy director at Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, said his organization is taking a wait-and-see approach to amendments that “erode the bright line” banning rent-stabilized units.


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