The Airbnb icon (Courtesy photo)

Over the last few years, a significant threat to affordable housing and the safety of our communities has been creeping into our D.C. neighborhoods and in other cities across the country.

Unbeknownst to most residents in D.C., out-of-state commercial interests have been buying up apartment buildings and residential units to exploit home-sharing websites, like Airbnb and HomeAway, to set up illegal hotels in neighborhoods throughout the city.

It may seem harmless at first glance, but these illegal hotels cheat law-abiding, tax-paying D.C. residents and are fracturing our neighborhoods by replacing our neighbors with an endless revolving door of strangers otherwise known as “guests.”

These illegal commercial hotel operations are driving up our rental prices and lowering the availability of affordable housing for hardworking tax payers that work and live in D.C.

Graylin W. Presbury

These commercial operations are run by big businesses who have come to D.C. with the intention of buying up large amounts of property to rent to the many visitors we get each year. They buy up entire buildings and blocks, making them unavailable to individuals and families with long term housing needs. And, they have no intention of renting to D.C. residents or paying D.C. taxes.

It’s unfair to those with a genuine desire to participate in legal home sharing. A glaring side effect of these illegal hotels, is it forces D.C. residences out of their own neighborhoods because of increased rental prices and forces them to seek less expensive housing outside of D.C. So, they leave, taking their tax paying dollars with them.

Some of the people who can’t find D.C. housing include single mothers, with already enough on their plates without the added worry of rising rents. Teachers, who serve our communities on a daily basis by educating our youth and giving back to the D.C. community, who after a long day in the classroom, shouldn’t be cheated by large, tax evading corporations. Emergency, first responders, who work to keep us safe from each other, fires, and other calamities, and who make us feel comfortable going to sleep in our own homes, yet might not have an affordable home of their own to go to in the District.

Without them, our lives would be in chaos. Yet these and others are the very people who are being hurt the most by illegal commercial hotel operators in D.C. And, you can be assured that these community contributors are paying D.C. taxes, unlike the big business, commercial operators running illegal hotels.

This has to stop!

It’s not fair in so many ways. In order to allow real home sharing to occur and to put an end to the unfairness occurring in the D.C. housing market, it is crucial that the City Council passes the Short-Term Rental Regulation and Affordable Housing Protection Act of 2017. This bill would put an end to these commercial operators buying up the available D.C. residential units, while protecting real home sharing and affordable housing options.

Bring fairness to District residents, workers, the single mothers, teachers, firefighters, police officers, and all those others who give everything serving the District community. We are doing them a disservice by letting these tax-evading, big businesses come in to our city, buy up our homes, and drive up our rental prices.

Let’s be fair, I urge our City Council to protect our neighborhoods and affordable housing options before it is too late.


WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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