Protestors say that short-term rental sites have allowed some LA buildings to operate as de facto hotels.

A local labor union says short-term rental sites are taking away affordable apartments

With Los Angeles officials still waffling over how to regulate Airbnb and other short-term rental services, demonstrators took to the streets Thursday, demanding that city leaders take action.

“We need strong protections so that our housing is for people that live here,” says Charlie Carnow, research analyst for Unite Here Local 11—the service industry union that organized the protests.

Demonstrators gathered outside of buildings around the city where they argue owners and residents have taken advantage of the city’s lack of meaningful short-term rental restrictions, becoming de facto hotels or party houses.

The city council began weighing possible short-term rental regulations nearly three years ago, but proposed guidelines still haven’t cleared the council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee.

In 2016, LA leaders did manage to strike a deal with Airbnb ensuring that tax revenue from rentals listed on the site would flow reliably into city coffers. In February, the company announced the arrangement had already netted the city more than $56 million.

The city needs to create meaningful regulations on short-term rentals to ensure that housing is available for permanent residents, says Carnow. He points to a 2015 study from the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy that found that sites like Airbnb allow 11 units to disappear from the local rental market every day.

Carnow argues that has an impact on the lives of the thousands of hotel and restaurant workers represented by his union, who are often burdened by costly rents in a region afflicted by a severe housing shortage.

“This is a problem all around the city,” says Carnow. “The longer we wait, the more housing units we lose.”

In a statement to Curbed, Airbnb spokesperson Charlie Urbancic agreed that the city’s short-term rental industry requires regulation, but suggested union leaders may have ulterior motives for pushing the city to adopt restrictions.

“We … don’t support the notion that hotel industry front groups should determine how thousands of Angelenos use their homes to pay the bills,” said Urbancic.

Proposed rules for short-term rentals would prevent hosts from listing apartments covered by the city’s Rent Stabilization Ordinance and limit the amount of time units can be rented in a year to 180 days.

Such a cap could reduce incentives for landlords to remove apartments from the rental market—though at least one report finds that LA landlords could still earn more renting out units short-term under those rules than by offering them to permanent residents.

In February, when city officials last discussed short-term rental requirements, Councilmember Jose Huizar suggested that a committee vote on the matter would “hopefully” happen in the next month.

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