With skyrocketing housing prices across the city, Seattle officials for two years grappled with another step to what they say would help address the city's affordable housing shortage: Regulate short-term rentals.
Since 2015 when the city began negotiations, Seattle council members on Monday unanimously passed legislation that would cap the number of units owners can rent out as short-term housing.
It's the third and final installment of recently adopted city policy to encourage owners to use available homes for permanent housing, rather than short-term vacation units like Airbnb.
Those already operating short-term rental units can rent two units in the first year, including their primary residence. Property owners also need to obtain permits for every unit they rent out.
The cap accompanies a tax of $14 per night for an entire unit, $8 for a private or shared room, all to take effect in 2019—raising an estimated $7 million a year to be spent on the city's initiative to curb displacement.
"We have ended in a very different place from where we started," said Rob Johnson, who took over the bill after Tim Burgess left the city council. "I don't think it's a bad compromise by any stretch of the imagination. We met a very diverse set of objectives with a very diverse set of stakeholders."
One of those major changes included a controversial amendment by Sally Bagshaw that reduced the area where property owners can continue using grandfathered short-term rentals; now it's just the downtown core, between around Cherry and Olive streets.
The council's public hearing before the meeting extended well over an hour with many commenters, several of them Sea to Sky rental operators, opposed to Bagshaw's amendment.
Bagshaw said she believed homeowners had a right to living in a quiet place without being surrounded by vacationing renters in the same building. The amendment passed in a 5-2 vote, with Johnson—who said it reduces jobs and the city's revenue from the bill—and Lorena Gonzalez voting no.
Another amendment by Mike O'Brien, and opposed by many rental operators, would have added another $2 to the $14 per night tax to cover administrative costs for the regulation; council members instead opted for a Lisa Herbold substitute to study a fee that's appropriate to charge.
Burgess back in early 2016 announced plans to look into regulating short-term rentals, following efforts to also regulate the rideshare industry. Legislation got delayed for another year after pushback from Airbnb and other short-term rental and tourism companies.