Concerns over Airbnb rentals rise

Photo Courtesy of || The lack of regulations for Airbnb properties could hurt local business. 

Photo Courtesy of || The lack of regulations for Airbnb properties could hurt local business. 

Kira Barrett ’18
Assistant News Editor

With Airbnb’s rising popularity, residents of Northampton and the Pioneer Valley are weary of the effect that the industry will have on local businesses.

At the moment, Airbnb rental properties are not regulated or subject to taxation in the state of Massachusetts.

    As the Daily Hampshire Gazette reported last May, owner of the Sugar Maple Trailside Inn in Florence, Craig Della Penna, expressed his concerns about competing with neighboring Airbnb properties.

Della Penna said that the Airbnb industry would negatively impact “a place where tourism is key,” adding, “This is about making your community more worthwhile to live in.”

Pella has cause to worry. As the Gazette reported earlier this month, the number of Airbnb hosts in Hampshire County rose from 220 in 2016 to 280 in 2017.

In 2016, there was an estimated 112,000 Airbnb hosts, which grew to 144,000 hosts in 2017. Due to the sheer popularity of the service, Massachusetts lawmakers have attempted to regulate it for years – but it’s been tricky.

In 2015, Democrat representatives Aaron Michlewitz of Boston and Roselee Vincent of Revere proposed Bill 2618. The Bill argued that short-term rental properties, which would include Airbnb rentals, should be taxed. In 2016, it failed to pass the House.

    The latest attempt in 2017 failed again due to disagreement over how much short-term rental properties should be taxed. Despite the difficulty in passing these bill, all of the politicians involved in discussions believe that there should be a taxation of some kind.  

Airbnb agrees with them. Crystal Davis, an Airbnb spokeswoman told the Gazette, “In terms of tax collection, we’ve always advocated to pay our fair share in taxes across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”

    Since the last failed tax bill, some individual cities and towns in Massachusetts have taken matters into their own hands.

Cambridge is one such city. Last May, WBUR reported that the Cambridge City Council voted to “require hosts to live in the same or an adjacent building as part of a new set of rules designed to protect the city’s scarce affordable housing market.”

    Will Northampton follow suit? According to the Gazette, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz expressed his own concerns over the lack of regulations for Airbnb properties.

“This is the way our economy is changing. We certainly don’t want to stifle that, but at the same time government has to adapt,” Narkewicz said.

Only time will tell if Narkewicz plans to follow Cambridge’s example of imposing its own tax laws, or if he will leave it to the Statehouse to deliberate on once more.