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City Council talks Airbnb in LB

Long Beach hopes to improve affordable housing issue with short term rentals.

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Samantha Diaz, Staff Writer

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Long Beach City Council is looking to short-term rentals to help alleviate the housing crisis in the city. Officials approved a study Tuesday night to look into methods of regulating the short term rental market, including spaces rented out using Airbnb and similar rental sites.

The measure was brought forward by councilwoman Jeannine Pearce of the 2nd district and is meant to combat the affordable housing crisis in Long Beach by providing regulations on rooms or homes currently being rented out.

Current vacancy rate in Long Beach is at 2 to 3 percent while the city maintains a rental rate of about 60 percent, according to city staff. The study will help the city measure the number of homes being rented out short term and include this number in the city’s vacancy rate in order to get a clearer picture of the affordable housing crisis.

“Eliminating housing stock by using these properties for short term rentals only increases and enhances the [housing crisis] problem,” councilwoman Suzie Price of the 3rd district said in support of the study.

The council also wants the short-term rentals in compliance with the city so that people staying in these homes and rooms will contribute to the sales tax, much like hotels in Long Beach already do.

Vice Mayor Rex Richardson said he wanted to make sure that the city is not prohibiting, but rather encouraging the “shared economy” between short-term rentals and the city.

While the main priority for the study is to explore methods of regulating short-term rentals, city staff will also look into the possibility of penalizing renters who are not in compliance with the city ordinances.

Under current law, it is illegal to rent out your home or extra bedroom on a short-term basis in Long Beach, according to councilwoman Pearce. The city enacted the ban in order to keep parking under control and prevent trouble from visitors for residents. Despite the ban, there are about 1,100 units of housing listed online for short-term rentals in Long Beach.

“The ban is difficult to enforce. There are problems with loud and late night party noises in residential neighborhoods and adding groups of visitors into parking impacted neighborhoods,” councilwoman Price said. “It’s great that Long Beach is and continues to be an attractive place for tourism … but we don’t want the positives we have to create problems for our residents as a result of the short-term rentals.”

If a resident is reported renting out their home or an extra room, the city issues a cease and desist notice with no other penalty. The study will look at other cities who ban short term rentals and explore possible penalties that can be issued to those who are renting without city approval.

Some of the regulations and penalties for hosts proposed by council included shutting off utilities if a home is discovered to be  an illegal short-term rental, requiring hosts to undergo background checks and supply an extra parking space for any tenants and placing a limit on the number of days a home or room can be rented out.

The regulations were proposed to the city staff to look into by councilwoman Price, saying that the “quality of life and public safety” is at stake.

Lifting the ban on short-term rentals received mixed reactions from the public, some residents saying that they rely on the extra income from rentals and others arguing that renters do more harm than help to the city.

The city staff will explore possibilities of both regulating and enforcing the current ban on short-term rentals and return to the council in the coming months.

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