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D.C. Council member targets 'illegal hotel,' plans new Airbnb regs

D.C. Council member targets 'illegal hotel,' plans new Airbnb regs (ABC7)

Affordable housing advocates gathered on the 3500 block of 13th St. NW in Columbia Heights Thursday morning to hold a news conference outside what they called an "illegal hotel."

They were surrounded by demonstrators – Airbnb and VRBO hosts - who worry about new D.C. government regulations.

The hosts are concerned about pending legislation from D.C. Council member Brianne Nadeau that would revise D.C. zoning rules and require a business license for short-term rentals.

“The problem that we have is a property owner who is taking units that should be regular rental and using them as short term,” she said.

The Council member pointed out the property where they held the event is not just some basement Airbnb rental. It is a three-story building with 21 units. All of them have keyless entry doorknobs requiring a code to get inside.

ABC7 News was unable to reach the property owner for comment.

Before the news conference, one of the building’s units was rented by Valerie Ervin - a former Montgomery County Council member and now senior advisor for the affordable housing-focused Working Families party.

“At the end of the day, it was almost $1,200 for three nights to stay in this rent-controlled apartment, which should have been the rent for the entire month,” Ervin said.

Airbnb and VRBO hosts say the property is not a fair representation of what’s rented across the district. They said, without revenue from the rental platforms, they could not afford their own housing.

“It supplements your income so therefore I'm able to afford to pay my mortgage every month,” said Airbnb host Cherie Dargan.

In a statement, Airbnb Washington, D.C. Public Policy Director William D. Burns said, “The District has always been a leader in the innovation economy and any new rules introduced and adopted by the City around home sharing should be fair, progressive, and protect the economic benefits of all residents."

Nadeau and housing advocates said they are not targeting spare bedroom rentals but they do want to stop commercial operations that eliminate what should be affordable housing.

“On a macro level, you're displacing thousands of D.C. residents,” Ervin said.

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