Action Alert: Airbnb Can’t Take Our Homes!

This Tuesday, Berkeley’s City Council indicated they might backtrack on the decent short term rentals law they passed on May 31st. The second reading of the new law was held over at Councilman Capitelli’s request, and will be heard June 28th. Councilman Capitelli is also running for Mayor.

Basically, Berkeley Tenants have until next week to get as many letters to the City Council as AirBnB hosts already sent, or we will continue to see our rent controlled housing converted to hotel rooms. Air BnB got at least 200 Berkeley users to send our elected leaders form letters last week, and that’s all it took for Council to start wavering from the strong referral they made last summer.

1701 Oxford Has Every Unit on Airbnb

1701 Oxford Has Every Unit on Airbnb

 

ACTION: Send to: council@cityofberkeley.info

Thank you for passing a fair short term rentals law.
I support allowing people to rent their homes when they are on vacation, but I stand with the Berkeley Tenants Union in asking for strict enforcement of a ban on converting empty units into tourist rentals. It’s important that “hosts” be required to have a business license just like any other small business in Berkeley, pay their fair share of taxes, and display that license on their listings so it will be easier to enforce the law.

So far, the Rent Board, Planning Commission, and Housing Advisory Commission agreed about most provisions of the new law – The same provisions the Council itself asked for after a long public process last summer! But because a couple folks who are already breaking the law by renting their second unit as a short term rental pleaded that they will lose their homes if they are not allowed to continue to break the law, Council is wavering on a decades-old policy of not letting folks circumvent rent control by renting for less than 14 days. Also, because of pressure from corporations like HomeAway and Airbnb, Council is wavering on the only enforcement mechanism in the new law: requiring the business license on advertising.

This late first step toward dealing with the problems caused by short-term rentals in Berkeley comes at the same moment that San Francisco is revising their law to fine corporations like Airbnb $1000 per day if they advertise places that are not registered with that city, because so far only 25% of hosts in San Francisco are legal. San Francisco collected over half a million dollars in fines in the first six months of its new program.

City Council has asked staff to come back with more information on the 28th:
Info on the business license process, What is a Zoning Certificate? Why is displaying the license number on the ads is key to enforcement? What is the new San Francisco law? What is the difference between the staff and planning commission drafts? What is an ADU? What about in-laws with no separate kitchen? What are penalties for non-compliance? How will enforcement occur?

About Berkeley’s Draft Law
“We’ve gone years letting large landlords take entire buildings and a sizable number of rental units off the market,” said City Councilman Kriss Worthington.… “We need to start enforcement on large landowners who are constantly breaking the law and raking in lots of money… We need to stop that as fast as we can.”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/06/09/berkeley-city-council-okays-spare-bedrooms-but-not-backyard-cottages-for-short-term-rentals/comment-page-1/

Short Term Rentals Are a Way to Circumvent Rent Control
“For these reasons and more, it should come as no surprise that so many Berkeley homeowners are choosing to rent via Airbnb (where any commitment is limited to a matter of days), rather than leasing to a local (who may overstay their welcome by decades).”
http://www.berkeleyside.com/2016/06/20/op-ed-why-airbnb-is-so-popular-among-berkeley-homeowners-a-cautionary-tale-on-renting-space-in-your-home/#disqus_thread

Airbnb Berkeley Form Letter
Airbnb Letter (PDF)

City Council Item Under Consideration
see http://berkeleytenants.org/?p=1681

San Francisco Starts $1,000 Penalties
http://www.sfexaminer.com/sf-legislators-approve-tougher-rules-airbnb/

Surprise! Corporation Fights New Regulations
https://techcrunch.com/2016/06/16/airbnb-launches-campaign-to-ease-registration-requirements-for-sf-hosts/

Harvard Study: Unregulated Airbnb Allows Racial Profiling
http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=46073

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