**FILE** The Airbnb website is displayed on a laptop on April 21, 2014 in San Anselmo, California. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

It’s Time DC, coalition of local community groups, civic organizations, labor leaders and residents, has united to launch an ad campaign to voice the concerns of the thousands of city residents and neighborhoods that have been negatively affected by short-term rentals, and to encourage the city council to pass legislation to protect neighborhoods and affordable housing.

The first ad of the campaign will feature Yukia Hugee, a single mother living in D.C. who has seen firsthand how unregulated short-term rentals have depleted housing for city residents.

“As a single mom, finding an affordable home for my family in D.C. is a challenge and now commercial investors are buying up homes to rent on Airbnb reducing housing and raising rent citywide,” Hugee said. “Neighbors are being replaced with constant strangers with these unregulated Airbnbs taking away potential homes for families like mine.”

Graylin Presbury, president of the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations, said the coalition isn’t opposed to true sharing where a homeowner rents out a room in their house or whole primary residence, but is opposed to commercial investors buying up homes to rent on short-term rental sites such as Airbnb.

“Out-of-town commercial investors are taking residential homes to post as short-term rentals on sites like Airbnb, which is lowering the availability of affordable housing, driving up rent for city residents and making the dream of owning a home in D.C. less obtainable.” Presbury said. “It has become a citywide problem and the only solution is to limit short-term rentals to primary residency to protect the city’s housing stock for permanent residents.”

The second ad features Rev. Kevin Williams, who as a local preacher said he sees families struggling with the cost of housing in D.C.

“Families are being evicted from homes as landlords convert to Airbnbs which depletes access to housing and makes the dream of owning or even renting a home in D.C. less obtainable,” said Kevin Williams. “Sharing a home can be a godly act but taking away potential homes for profit is wrong.”

Regina Welch, an Adam Morgan resident and member of the Unite Here! Local 25 union, wants to see city leaders step up to protect affordable housing for its members, which include thousands of workers citywide.

“Families who work in the city are being forced out due to the declining availability of affordable housing and rising cost of housing,” Welch said. “It’s time for D.C. to act and we are confident in the leadership of [D.C. Council Chairman Phil] Mendelson and the city council to step up and put residents first by passing a strong short-term law to protect the city’s housing stock.”

Lauren Windsor with AirbnbWATCH, a project of American Family Voices representing community, housing, labor, equality and hospitality groups, advocating for U.S. city officials to rein in commercial investors in residential properties, said the goal of the campaign is drive awareness of the issue to encourage D.C. leaders to act.

“Leaders from major cities across the country like San Diego, San Francisco, New York, and Boston have enacted short-term rental laws to protect affordable housing and hold short-term rental platforms like Airbnb accountable,” Windsor said. “These unregulated short-term rentals are skirting taxes and health and safety regulations and buying up residential homes to rent on Airbnb. The problem with these commercial operators is only going to get worse unless D.C. leaders step in.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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