PRP Founder & President Jill Habig "Ruling A Victory In Battle For Affordable Housing Housing"

“[Ninth Circuit] Ruling A Victory In Battle For Affordable Housing”

By Jill Habig | 21 March 2019

OAKLAND, Calif. — “The Ninth Circuit recently upheld a Santa Monica ordinance regulating short-term rental companies. This ruling is a victory not just for Santa Monica, but for cities and localities across the country attempting to combat affordable housing crisis and to make policy decisions that benefit their communities in the age of the internet.”

In 2015, the city of Santa Monica faced an astounding number of short-term rentals: approximately 1,700 listings on Airbnb and HomeAway within its eight square miles. Entire apartment buildings were listed as short-term rentals, effectively becoming hotels for tourists and taking housing off the market for families seeking to make the city their home. To address this growing problem, Santa Monica passed an ordinance aimed at preserving residential housing stock.

Santa Monica’s ordinance, amended in 2017, required residents to obtain a license in order to list short-term rentals. Licenses were limited to short-term rentals where residents remained on-site with their guests. The ordinance also prohibited online platforms like Airbnb and HomeAway from booking any transactions for properties that were not properly licensed, imposed Transient Occupancy Taxes on the platforms, and required the platforms to disclose certain listing and booking information to the city of Santa Monica.


As we noted in our amicus brief, the United States has a shortage of more than 7.2 million rental homes affordable and available to extremely low-income renters, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Meanwhile, the dramatic growth of short-term rentals — driven in part by the companies like the ones in the case — reduces the total number of units otherwise available for permanents rental housing, driving up prices across the board. In the face of this massive affordability crisis, cities across the country are trying to address one piece of the problem by regulating short-term rentals.


Moreover, cities are also trying to address a wide range of conduct has moved to the internet and affect nearly every aspect of modern-day life. In order to do so, companies that operate online cannot become magically immune from regulate and liability. Cities should be allowed to determine how best to strike the balance between encouraging innovation and meeting the needs of their residents. Cities can and should approach policymaking and litigation with the best interests of their communities in mind, and they should be encouraged and supported to do so. We are glad the 9th Circuit agrees.


Originally published on March 21, 2019. Read full op-ed via Daily Journal.

Also available: official statement from City of Santa Monica.)

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