Santa Monica rolls out an unwelcome mat for Airbnb

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The Santa Monica City Council has enacted tough restrictions on short-term rentals – cutting off a source of income for homeowners who’ve been using online sites like Airbnb to rent their properties to tourists.

Santa Monica will now ban rentals of entire homes or apartment units for less than 30 days. People can still rent out rooms or so-called “mother-in-law” units, but they’ll have to get a business license and pay the city’s 14 percent hotel tax.

Los Angeles, San Francisco and other California cities are considering similar measures.

rentals1A crowd of about 100 people who oppose tougher regulation of the booming short-term rental industry rallied outside City Hall before yesterday’s vote. They say homeowners will lose much-needed income under the new rules. And they that Santa Monica and other cities shouldn’t be able to dictate what they do with their private residences.

The council wasn’t swayed, voting unanimously to approve the new regulations.

rental3Supporters of Santa Monica’s action call it a matter of fairness. They say owners have been treating their properties as hotels without paying the taxes and other fees required of traditional businesses. The hotel industry has been mostly silent on the issue – but hotel worker unions were active in the battle to pass short-term rental restrictions in Santa Monica.

Meanwhile, there are also concerns that the burgeoning short-term rental business is exacerbating a shortage of affordable housing in some cities.