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Morning Notes

Parking Changes Among Child Care Proposals — Changing onerous parking requirements for child care centers is going to be “on the list of proposed ordinance changes we’re introducing” at a community meeting next Monday, according to a tweet from Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. [Twitter]

Smoke the Dog Dies — “Smoke, the Arlington, Virginia, dog with a bucket list, died this week, the Animal Welfare League of Arlington announced Friday. In July, Smoke captured a lot of hearts in the area when the Arlington shelter announced that he had terminal cancer and that they’d created a bucket list for him.” [WTOP]

Letter: Arlington Lacks Airbnb Enforcement — A letter to the editor argues that Arlington County has been ineffective in enforcement of a short-term rental ordinance passed in 2016. Per the letter: “Short-term rental industry websites showed more than 1,000 units advertised for short-term rent in Arlington as of early July, but only 72 residents had obtained permits, down from 86 in January.” [Washington Post]

Dems Make Money Via Mail — The top fundraising activity for the Arlington County Democratic Committee: sending hand-addressed and hand-stamped letters. [InsideNova]

Tree Falls on Chain Bridge Road — Chain Bridge Road was closed Sunday after a tree fell and took down utility lines, for at least the second time this year. The stretch of Chain Bridge Road in Arlington that was closed is home to the most expensive house in the D.C. area. [Twitter]

Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani

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Bed and Breakfast Plan Denied for ‘Pershing Manor’ Mansion

The Arlington County Board nixed a plan for a huge Lyon Park mansion to be used as a bed and breakfast at its meeting Saturday (September 16).

On a 3-2 vote, the Board denied a proposal for the home at 3120 N. Pershing Drive to operate as a bed and breakfast with at most five guest rooms, with some of those to operate as suites using more than one bedroom. The 13,700-square-foot house contains nine bedrooms, and would have been the county’s first bed and breakfast.

Board member John Vihstadt joined chair Jay Fisette and vice chair Katie Cristol in voting against the plan. Christian Dorsey and Libby Garvey voted for it.

“One of the bottom lines here for me is you have an exceptionally large house… and now it has the potential to provide exceptionally large disruption depending upon what the Board does and either way, how it is managed in the neighborhood,” County Board chair Jay Fisette said.

But the door is still open for property owners Yogi and Daisy Dumera to have their home as a short-term Airbnb rental, which has laxer rules on operation.

Under the Airbnb regulations, a total of six people could stay in the home at one time, or two per bedroom, whichever is most. An Airbnb rental does not require any off-street parking, unlike a bed and breakfast, and would only be inspected by code enforcement after a complaint.

Garvey said given the stricter enforcement on operating bed and breakfasts, she was inclined to support the plan as it could protect the neighborhood more.

“I think, in the long run, it’ll be better for the neighborhood to have more controls and regulations to stay within the parameters of that neighborhood to make it a B&B,” she said. “If we don’t make it a bed and breakfast, I suspect it’ll go the Airbnb route and make things more difficult for the neighborhood.”

The bed and breakfast plan came in for criticism at the Board’s meeting during public testimony. Local resident Harlan Hadley bemoaned the home’s potential conversion into a “quasi-commercial business,” especially because of traffic impacts.

And in a letter to the Board, the Lyon Park Citizens Association said allowing a business in a home would damage the residential neighborhood and possibly encourage similar uses from others.

“Residents opposed the conversion of a residential property in the heart of a residential area into a commercial site,” the association’s executive committee wrote. “The Association believes that this could set a deleterious precedent and could lead to many more sites being developed and reclassified in ways that would erode the quality of our neighborhood.”

The plan followed Dumera’s efforts to sell the house for several years. Records show he dropped the asking price well under the property’s $4 million assessed value, but took the home off the market after not finding a buyer. The property was criticized by neighbors for its ostentatiousness when it was built a decade ago.

Fisette said the bed and breakfast plan appeared to be a “last effort” by the owners to recoup their investment after being unsuccessful in their efforts to sell or auction the house.

Photo No. 1 via Zillow

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Morning Notes

It’s September — As if to emphasize that today is the start of September and the first day of meteorological autumn, mother nature has dialed up a crisp start to the morning and a cool day overall in the D.C. area. [Twitter, NOAA]

Arlington Seeing Airbnb Tax Revenue — The recently-implemented enforcement of the transient occupancy tax on Airbnb-style rentals in Arlington County is producing revenue: nearly $18,000 through July. County tax enforcers think taxes on Airbnb and other short-term rentals may eventually bring in $250,000-$1.5 million per year. [InsideNova]

HS Football Kicks Off — The high school football season has kicked off for Arlington’s high schools. Wakefield defeated Washington-Lee 37-27 last night at the Generals’ home turf. The game was attended by a number of Arlington Public Schools officials, including Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. Also Thursday night, Yorktown defeated D.C.’s Wilson High School 20-14. Arlington-based private high school Bishop O’Connell lost its season opener. [Twitter, Twitter, InsideNova, InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Morning Notes

Yellow Line Metro trains at National Airport (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

Airbnb Reg Changes Proposed — The Arlington County Board is considering more updates to its new Airbnb regulations. The Board on Saturday is expected to advertise two potential changes: first, eliminate the loophole that allowed Airbnb hosts to get out of paying hotel taxes if they host fewer than four guests at a time. Second, set a $60 annual fee for the permits required to be an Airbnb (or VRBO, HomeAway, etc.) host in Arlington. [Arlington County, Arlington County]

Letter: Short-Term Rentals Pose Risks — A pair of letter to the editor writers in the Sun Gazette argue that allowing Airbnb and other short-term rental services in Arlington involves major risks to safety and the potential for abuse of affordable housing. [InsideNova]

Meeting to Discuss Proposed VRE Fare Hike — A meeting will be held March 7 in Crystal City to discuss a proposed 3 percent fare hike for Virginia Railway Express. [WTOP]

FBR to Be Acquired — Rosslyn-based investment bank FBR is being acquired by Los Angeles-based B. Riley Financial Inc. for $160.1 million in cash and stock. FBR’s chairman and chief executive will become CEO of the combined company. [InvestmentNews, Washington Business Journal]

Wakefield B-Ball Teams Advance — The Wakefield Warriors boys and girls basketball teams have clinched state tournament berths. [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

Snow on tree branches 1/30/17

Va. Officials on Immigration Order — President Donald Trump’s executive order barring those from seven Muslim nations from entering the U.S. has caught the ire of Arlington’s Democratic congressional representatives and state officials. Sen. Tim Kaine said that he was “appalled by the cruelty” of the order, Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner have “demanded answers” from the Dept. of Homeland Security, Gov. Terry McAuliffe is “outraged and disappointed,” and Rep. Don Beyer joined four other local congressmen at Dulles International Airport to try to speak to Customs and Border Protection officials who were detaining a number of travelers.

County Board Changes Airbnb Regs — Renters will now no longer be barred by the county from renting their home on Airbnb and other online services. The Arlington County Board approved the change to their recent-passed ordinance unanimously at its Saturday meeting. [Arlington County]

Bill: No Food = No Liquor — A bill that has passed the Virginia state senate would prohibit restaurants from serving liquor while the kitchen is closed and no longer serving food. The bill clarifies a 1971 law that was intended to do the same but was “interpreted liberally by some.” [Style Weekly]

County Acquires Land for Fire Station Project — The Arlington County Board has approved the $800,000 purchase of a home on N. Culpeper Street for the construction of a new, expanded Fire Station No. 8. The property is the final acquisition necessary to build a temporary fire station for use while the new station is constructed. [Arlington County]

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County Board to Consider Allowing Renters to Host Airbnb Guests

Arlington County Board on 9/27/16As of Jan. 1, those listing their homes on Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and other such services have a new set of Arlington County regulations to follow.

That followed the fast-tracked County Board approval of the regulations on Dec. 12, beating the state legislature — which is considering a more lax set of policies that could supercede local rules — to the punch.

With the rules now in place, however, the Arlington County Board is looking to make some changes. Chief among them is allowing renters, not just homeowners, to generate extra income by opening their home to short-term guests.

Advantaging those who own a home over those who rent was criticized by some as regressive, and at its Jan. 28 meeting the Board appears poised to respond. (As part of the legislative process, such changes must first be “advertised” to the public, and the Board did so in December while approving the original regulations.)

In a Board report, county staff said limiting Airbnb privileges to homeowners was an idea gleaned from other jurisdictions — an idea that staff came to realize would face significant pushback.

“Throughout the public outreach process, staff heard from renters with an interest in hosting accessory homestay, including the majority of participants at a public open house, and from several advisory groups and commissions, including the Housing Commission, and from several participants in an online feedback form,” staff wrote. “Staff concluded that it would be appropriate to broaden the proposed amendment to allow accessory homestay in all dwellings occupied by a resident who uses the dwelling as his/her primary residence, regardless of ownership status.”

The change would not, however, automatically mean that any renter could turn their apartment into a de facto hotel: the renter or homeowner must still use the home as their primary residence for at least 185 days out of the year, and landlords could still prevent tenants from taking in short-term renters.

“Even if the proposed amendment is adopted to allow tenants to host accessory homestay, a lease could still preclude (or further limit) a resident from using his/her home for accessory homestay purposes, and any enforcement of lease terms would be between the tenant and landlord,” staff wrote.

Other changes being considered this month include allowing hosts to rent out rooms to multiple short-term “roommates” on separate contracts, and making several “updates for clarity and consistency.”

The Arlington Planning Commission is scheduled to take up the changes at its meeting tonight before the Board votes on it later this month.

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Morning Notes

Snow on brick in Fairlington 1/7/17

Beyer Warns of Obamacare Repeal Ramifications — “The Republican plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act will have disastrous consequences for Virginia,” Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said Friday, citing recent studies. “Hundreds of thousands of our neighbors will lose life-saving, affordable health coverage. The state also stands to lose as many as 100,000 jobs, $30 billion in gross state product, and $50 billion in business output. This is unacceptable and irresponsible.” [House of Representatives, Commonwealth Fund]

Will Startup’s Growth Add Arlington Jobs? — Just before the new year, president-elect Donald Trump said that Rosslyn-based OneWeb will be creating 3,000 jobs as it prepares to launch hundreds of satellites to deliver broadband internet around the world. Will those jobs be coming to Arlington? An Arlington Economic Development spokeswoman said the agency was not sure, while a OneWeb spokesman told ARLnow.com only that it was opening a new office in McLean.

Op-Ed Warns ‘Ignore Arlington’s Bad Example’ — The Arlington County Board’s recently-passed home sharing regulations are a “bad example” for other Virginia localities considering similar rules, since Arlington prohibited renters from renting their homes on Airbnb and other platforms. “The opportunities created by the sharing economy shouldn’t be restricted to only those few who are deemed worthy,” says a fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, in an op-ed. [Richmond Times Dispatch]

County Board Members Take Regional Roles — “Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette will serve as 2017 Vice Chair of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol will serve as chair of the Northern Virginian Transportation Commission’s Legislative Committee, and has joined the leadership of the Virginia Railway Express Operations Board.” [Arlington County]

New Year, New Offer for New Advertisers — Join dozens of satisfied advertising clients and get your business’ message out to the greater Arlington community with ARLnow.com. Learn more about our advertising options and check out our new winter deal for new advertisers: book at least a month of advertising and get another month free. [ARLnow]

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Want to Rent Your Place on Airbnb? Get Ready to File Monthly Tax Returns

Airbnb logo at MakeOffices ClarendonThis past weekend, the Arlington County Board approved new regulations on Airbnb and other short-term home rentals.

The move was cheered by Airbnb, which said Arlington is now the “first D.C. area municipality to pass an ordinance creating fair rules for middle class residents and families to continue sharing their homes.”

The regulation officially makes Airbnb legal in Arlington, whereas it might have been technically illegal before, under the local zoning ordinance. But there was one issue not addressed by the county press release that Airbnb hosts will want to consider going forward: taxes.

ARLnow.com did some more digging and it turns out that Airbnb hosts (along with those using services like Homeaway, Craigslist, etc.) will have to pay the same 7.25 percent Transient Occupency Tax as hotels. And they’ll have to pay it in the same way — by creating an account with the county and filing monthly tax returns.

That’s a burden that may discourage casual hosts from, say, just renting their place for the inauguration, assuming they want to stay on the right side of the law.

“The Commissioner of Revenue will require each person renting property to transients, including those who obtain an accessory use permit for short term homestays under the new County ordinance, to collect and remit the TOT to the County,” Ray Warren, Arlington’s Deputy Commissioner of Revenue, tells ARLnow.com.

“This is done and will be done the same way as it is with every other entity providing transient accommodations,” Warren said. “We will set up an account for the accommodation provider. They must file each month by the 20th for the previous month’s activity.”

What if a homeowner did not rent his or her property in a given month?

“They should file monthly, but it is easy (especially online) to file a zero return,” Warren said. “Otherwise we don’t know if they had no business or merely neglected to file.”

So monthly tax returns will be the norm for anyone renting their place on Airbnb. If the homeowner decides to stop renting for the foreseeable future, they can notify the Commissioner of Revenue’s office and stop filing.

“It would not be proper, however, for the homeowner to again advertise the property for rent without opening a TOT account,” noted Warren.

Because Airbnb does not publicly list the addresses of rental properties, Warren said that compliance will primarily be accomplished through tips. Another compliance mechanism: checking the tax records of those who have applied for the new “accessory homestay” permit.

“We have made efforts this year, but we depend on tips and voluntary compliance,” he said. “To the extent there are those who do not comply with the County’s new ordinance (and get an accessory use permit) we will continue to rely on tips from the public.”

“Homestay rentals, unlike other public businesses, do not generally have signage or other markers, so that can be difficult otherwise,” Warren added. “We will also be reviewing individual (state) income tax returns to look for persons reporting such rental income. I suspect that bringing the vast majority into compliance through the County ordinance will also increase the number of leads as to non-compliant locations.”

County Board member John Vihstadt, the lone “no” vote on the short-term rental ordinance, said had “some serious reservations” about it and thought the process was “too rushed” and left “issues inadequately addressed.”

Contacted by ARLnow.com two days after the vote, he said he was not sure how taxes would be collected on Airbnb properties.

“That is something, frankly, that is not clear,” he said. “We need to make this easy for the hosts and guests.”

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Arlington County Board Approves New Airbnb Regulations

Airbnb logo at MakeOffices Clarendon(Updated at 11:30 a.m.) The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved regulations on Airbnb and other short-term home rentals — a move cheered by Airbnb as “fair” and “progressive.”

Such rentals were previously prohibited by the county’s Zoning Ordinance, though that didn’t stop hundreds, if not thousands, of local residents from listing and renting their homes on Airbnb, Craigslist and other services.

Above the objections of Arlington Republicans, and a “no” vote by John Vihstadt, four of the five County Board members voted to approve regulations that legalize Airbnb rentals while enacting certain restrictions.

Among the restrictions, per a county press release:

  • Short-term rentals allowed only in units used by owner as his or her primary residence at least 185 days per year
  • “May host the larger of either six lodgers, or two lodgers per number of bedrooms in the unit per night (but no more than allowed by Building Code)”
  • “Will not be allowed in detached accessory buildings”
  • “Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers, and where applicable, carbon monoxide detectors, must be provided and accessible to all overnight lodgers”
  • “Does not authorize use of the home for any other commercial use such as parties, banquets, weddings, meetings, charitable fund raising, commercial or advertising activities or any other gatherings for direct or indirect compensation”

“Like other jurisdictions, Arlington is adapting to the rise of the sharing economy,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “The extensive input we received about short-term rentals throughout this engagement process was essential to help shape new regulations… Today’s decision will help promote positive and safe experiences for renters, rental owners and their neighbors.”

In response to feedback at Saturday’s meeting, next month the Board will go back and consider allowing renters, not just owners, to rent their residences on Airbnb and similar services. The Board will also reconsider a restriction it approved specifying no more than one rental contract at a time for any given residence.

Airbnb cheered what it described as “the first D.C. area municipality to pass an ordinance creating fair rules for middle class residents and families to continue sharing their homes.”

“Today, the Arlington County Board voted to protect the rights of citizens to share their home and earn extra income to make ends meet,” the company said in a statement emailed to ARLnow.com Saturday.

“Airbnb is proud to have worked with the County Board to improve the previously restrictive proposal and create smart, progressive regulations around home sharing in Arlington County,” the statement continued. “We look forward to using this ordnance as a model for shaping sensible home sharing guidelines across the Commonwealth of Virginia and the entire Washington, D.C metropolitan area.”

Earlier this year the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill legalizing Airbnb statewide, superseding any potential local restrictions, but the bill was sent for a year of further study before Gov. Terry McAuliffe considers signing it. In passing its ordinance, Arlington County beat the state to the punch.

It was partially because of the speedy process that Vihstadt said he voted no. He proposed, unsuccessfully, that the Board’s vote be deferred until January.

“I still have some serious reservations about what is before us today,” he said. “I’m still concerned that it is too rushed, I’m concerned that it overreached in several respects while leaving other issues inadequately addressed, and I believe that it fails to some degree to recognize the realities of the sharing economy where consumers are empowered as never before, which calls for I think a much more flexible, lighter hand of government.”

Board member Katie Cristol voted for the regulations, but spoke in support of allowing renters to rent their property.

“Long term renters are contributing to our neighborhood,” she said, “and should have the same opportunity to take advantage of this additional income.”

At least one resident who spoke at the meeting, however, said the regulations were not restrictive enough.

“I have serious misgivings on the legalization of short-term Airbnb-style rentals, especially the lax permitting proposals by the county,” said Charles Hughes.”People choose to live in these neighborhoods and remain because of the feelings of neighborliness. Allowing homes and neighborhoods to turn into businesses will change the nature and character of our neighborhood.”

The new regulations will take effect on Dec. 31. Homeowners will have to apply for an “accessory homestay permit,” proving that they own and reside in the property in question, though so far there is no fee associated with the permit.

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Podcast: Arlington Chamber CEO Kate Bates on Towing, Airbnb and More

Kate RocheAs leader of the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, Kate Bates (née Roche) has lately taken an active role on issues like trespass towing and Airbnb rentals.

The Chamber is very much opposed to a proposed addition to the county’s towing ordinance that would require business owners to individually authorize each tow from their parking lots. The Arlington County Board is set to take up the issue this coming Tuesday, with the County Manager recommending against the so-called “second signature” requirement.

On Airbnb and other short term rentals, the Chamber has actively engaged its members on the county’s new proposed regulations, which are going before the Board on Saturday. With hotels in support of additional regulations, and apartment owners against (they would like the option of generating revenue through Airbnb while they lease up new buildings), the Chamber has declined to take a stance beyond encouraging its members to make their own voices heard.

In this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we asked Kate about those issues, about the current business climate in Arlington — including why so many restaurants and retailers have been closing lately — and about her ascension to the role of President and CEO of the Chamber at a relatively young age.

Listen below or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Google PlayStitcher or TuneIn.

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Arlington GOP Opposes Proposed Airbnb Regulations

Airbnb logo at MakeOffices ClarendonThe Arlington County Board is expected to vote on proposed regulations on Airbnb and other short-term rental services at its meeting this Saturday.

The regulations proposed by county staff include limits on the number of short-term renters who can stay in a given residence, depending on the number of bedrooms; it requires that the owner of a rental property use it as his or her primary residence, residing there at least 185 days of the year; and includes other provisions designed to strike a balance between those who want to generate supplemental revenue from their homes and those who don’t want to live next to a de facto hotel.

Arlington Republicans, in a press release today, said they are opposed to the regulations, which the county hustled to enact before the state legislature considers prohibiting such regulations during its January session.

The full local GOP press release is below.

Arlington GOP and Arlington Falls Church Young Republicans (AFCYRs) oppose the proposed “short-term residential rentals” regulations to be considered by the Arlington County Board this Saturday, December 10. While Arlington GOP and AFCYRs support establishing a formal legal structure for Airbnb and other short-term rentals that properly balances promoting the “sharing economy” with maintaining the character of our neighborhoods, the proposed regulations are unduly burdensome.

“Arlington County is rushing at break-neck speed to adopt regulations for Airbnb without fully understanding the impacts or gaining community consensus,” said Arlington GOP Chairman Jim Presswood.

Community Planning, Housing & Develop (CHPD) staff admitted at an Arlington County Planning Commission hearing last week that their process for developing the regulations was “atypical” and much shorter than usual. As a result, they have not done the research and community outreach that would normally be completed prior to adoption of final regulations.  CPHD is using an accelerated process because they want the regulations finalized before the next Virginia General Assembly, which is expected to consider legislation on short-term rentals.

The proposed regulations prohibit renters from doing short-term rentals even if their lease allows it, restrict food service, limit the number of contracts and days that residences may be rented, and include potentially onerous parking, inspection, permitting and fee requirements. Taken as a whole, the proposed regulations threaten to push many people out of this activity.

Arlington County should be encouraging the sharing economy in a way that maintains the quality of our community.  Benefits include providing residents income to help pay their mortgage or rent, creating additional short-term rental options for travelers, including visiting family members and friends, and enhancing our local economy when guests spend money at local restaurants and businesses.

“It would be a shame if Arlington undermines the future of the sharing economy while other jurisdictions move forward in this area,” said AFCYRs Chairman Andrew Loposser.

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Morning Notes

School Buses on Arlington Mill Drive and 29th Street South

Wardian Wins Vegas Marathon Dressed Like Elvis — Not only did Arlington’s own marathoning superhero Michael Wardian, 42, win the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon over the weekend, but he did it while dressed like Elvis Presley. Wardian even set a world record for the fastest marathon while dressed like the King, at 2:38:04. [Las Vegas Review-Journal, Competitor]

Fox Rescued from Construction Pit — The Animal Welfare League of Arlington rescued a fox from a large pit at a construction site on Monday. The fox was cold and muddy but uninjured; it was released back to “a quiet patch of trees nearby.” [Facebook]

APS Accused of Poor Communication — Arlington Public Schools is “a great school district,” says Washington Post columnist Jay Mathews, but it has communicated “poorly” regarding the potential for middle schools to move to block scheduling. [Washington Post]

Reminder: Preventing Sewer Backups — Ahead of the holiday season, Arlington County is reminding residents to avoid sending fats, oils and grease down the drain. The “FOG” from cooking and cleaning can clog home sewer lines and lead to catastrophic sewage backups. [Arlington County]

I-395 Issues on Monday — I-395 in the District was briefly blocked by anti-Trump protesters yesterday afternoon, leading to some backups. Later, a multi-vehicle crash near the Route 1 exit in Arlington blocked multiple lanes during the evening rush hour. [Washington Post, Twitter]

Last Day for Airbnb Feedback — Today is the last day to offer online feedback regarding Arlington County’s proposed Airbnb regulations. [Twitter]

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County Board to Consider Regulations on Airbnb Rentals

Airbnb logoThe Arlington County Board on Saturday will consider taking a first step to enacting new regulations on Airbnb and other short-term housing rentals.

County staff is proposing regulations that would permit Airbnb rentals, which currently exist in a bit of a legal gray area in Arlington, while imposing some restrictions.

Among the proposed regulations:

  • Those who rent their home on Airbnb would need to apply for and obtain an “accessory
    homestay permit,” which would remain valid for two years.
  • County inspectors would be authorized to inspect the homes of anyone with such a permit “at least one time per year,” with proper notice.
  • The home being rented is required to be the owner’s primary residence, with the owner living there most days of the year.
  • A cap of no more than six guests at a time in any given rental.
  • The owner would not be allowed to “prepare or serve food or beverages to
    any overnight guests.”

There are a total of 21 proposed regulations listed, including more mundane safety regulations like requiring working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.`

Some of the regulations are said to be “an option” for consideration — such as requiring that owner provide at least one off-street parking space and limiting the number of short-term-rental-eligible apartments in a given multi-family building to no more than 25 percent of units.

The Board this weekend will consider advertising the proposed changes. If approved, public meetings on the regulations would be held in November, ahead of final Board consideration in December.

Nearly 1,000 properties in Arlington were listed on Airbnb in September, according to a county press release. The number was closer to 1,600 over the summer, said County Manager Mark Schwartz.

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Arlington Mulls Regulating Airbnb Rentals

Airbnb logoArlington County is moving toward regulating short-term housing rentals booked through websites like Airbnb and Craigslist.

Airbnb, which has become an alternative to hotels or vacation rentals for many, is growing in popularity, prompting county staff and the County Board to initiate a public process that is expected to lead to regulations on such rentals.

Nearly 1,000 properties in Arlington were listed on Airbnb this month, according to a county press release. The number was closer to 1,600 earlier this summer, said County Manager Mark Schwartz.

While Airbnb is allowing residents to earn extra income by renting out their homes, some say Airbnb renters can make for lousy neighbors. Officials say they’ve heard from both residents concerned about Airbnb and from Airbnb hosts who want the service moved out of legal limbo in Arlington.

“We have several goals for regulating short-term residential rentals,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a statement. “We want to protect the character of Arlington’s neighborhoods, ensure public safety for our community, reduce barriers for those who already are or may want to use their homes as short-term rentals in a legal and responsible manner and provide a mechanism for enforcement.”

In October, the Board is expected to pass a Request to Advertise for public hearings on a Zoning Ordinance amendment related to short-term rentals. A final vote on the new regulations could take place as early as December.

One complicating factor: the Virginia General Assembly is considering legislation that would prevent local governments from restricting or collecting hotel taxes on short-term rentals.

“We do not know at this time, what the new legislation will include, and thus the impacts on local government ability to regulate short-term rentals,” County Manager Mark Schwartz told the Board. “We do know that there has been a demand from the community, including short term rental hosts, asking for rules on how to operate legally. By acting prior to the end of December 2016, the County can help inform the state’s ultimate decision.”

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