Opinion: Airbnb drives up L.A. housing prices. Here’s how we can push back

Airbnb is again within the headlines in Los Angeles: 1000’s of short-term rental hosts are breaking the regulation, and town isn’t taking the issue critically sufficient.

If this feels like a well-recognized story, it’s. In 2019, shortly after town had introduced it was starting to implement its short-term rental guidelines, I discovered that unlawful leases have been nonetheless flourishing. My follow-up research in 2021 and 2022 confirmed the identical factor.

Why ought to we care about unlawful short-term leases? The easy reply is that they’re making housing scarcer and fewer inexpensive for Angelenos. A landmark research led by Kyle Barron of the Nationwide Bureau of Financial Analysis discovered that Airbnb was answerable for practically one-fifth of all of the residential hire will increase in the US between 2012 and 2016. A Los-Angeles particular research led by Hans Koster from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam discovered that between 2014 and 2018, Airbnb was answerable for a greater than 30% enhance in housing costs in Venice, in addition to giant value will increase in different main vacationer locations in Los Angeles.

Greater housing prices straight enhance homelessness. Wanting on the influence of short-term leases in Los Angeles from 2014 by 2022, I estimated that short-term leases are answerable for 5,000 further Angelenos experiencing homelessness every evening. It is a human tragedy but additionally a monetary one — it might price town $1.3 billion to construct sufficient supportive housing to accommodate them.

Quick-term rental hosts in Los Angeles are required to get a license from town, and so they’re allowed to function a rental solely out of their very own principal residence. However these guidelines don’t appear to be working. After I crunched the numbers final yr, I discovered that just about half of the short-rentals working in Los Angeles are unlawful. A giant portion had no license quantity in any respect, 1 / 4 of the listings with a license quantity have been utilizing a pretend or expired one, and lots of extra have been clearly industrial operations somewhat than home-sharing preparations involving a principal residence.

What ought to town be doing about this? First, it ought to get severe about gathering fines from short-term rental hosts who’re breaking the principles. A yr in the past, data from town indicated that it was gathering lower than $4,000 a month in home-sharing ordinance fines. But by my evaluation, if each host who broke the principles have been paying the correct fines, that quantity needs to be greater than a thousand instances bigger — no less than $50 million per yr.

In apply, if town began rigorously implementing its personal guidelines, hosts would cease breaking the regulation with such impunity and the fines collected would go down. However that’s a superb factor: Much like the method of imposing so-called “sin taxes” on alcohol and cigarettes, a part of the rationale for aggressively implementing fines can be to discourage a socially dangerous exercise, not merely to boost income from that very same exercise.

Second, along with going after hosts, town ought to maintain short-term rental corporations — Airbnb, but additionally the various smaller gamers out there — financially answerable for unlawful actions occurring on their platforms. Presently the home-sharing ordinance mandates fines of $1,000 per day for platforms accepting reservations for unlawful listings, however such fines are hardly ever collected. Town ought to begin gathering them broadly and enhance their measurement to the purpose that the platforms haven’t any selection however to begin taking them critically.

The federal government of Quebec, the place I dwell and work, has launched fines of as much as $100,000 per itemizing that doesn’t have a sound license quantity. These numbers are tantamount to saying to Airbnb and the opposite platforms “comply with the principles or go away city,” and it’s long gone time for Los Angeles to take the identical method.

Lastly, town ought to rescind its prolonged home-sharing licenses. These licenses permit hosts to supply short-term leases year-round, and they enrich a small variety of industrial operators at the price of residents paying extra for their very own housing. In a metropolis with as many high-quality vacationer lodging choices as Los Angeles, there isn’t any conceivable public curiosity rationale for letting scarce housing function de facto inns. No matter income town brings in through transient occupancy taxes is swamped by the additional housing prices imposed on Los Angeles residents.

Residence sharing could be a win-win for Los Angeles’ economic system and housing market. A modest quantity of part-time leases would provide guests a wider vary of lodging choices whereas serving to some residents meet their housing prices. However this works provided that town begins insisting that short-term rental hosts and platforms play by the principles — and begins punishing them in the event that they don’t.

David Wachsmuth is an affiliate professor of city planning at McGill College and the Canada Analysis Chair in City Governance.