Today the House Committee on Financial Services is meeting to hear public testimony on proposed state legislation, H.3454 “An Act Regulating and Insuring Short-Term Rentals.” (The Cambridge City Council Ordinance Committee will hold another public hearing on STRs on July 5th at 4:00pm at City Hall.) I submitted written comments to the House committee:
June 27, 2017
The Honorable Members of the Joint Committee on Financial Services
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts State House, Boston, MA 02133
Members of the Joint Committee on Financial Services,
Thank you for holding this hearing today and for considering my written comments, as I am unable to attend due to a conference I am attending. I am writing to you today in regards to H. 3454, introduced by Rep. Michlewitz. As you may know, the Cambridge City Council is considering its own Short-Term Rental regulations, and I am pleased that this bill addresses many of the same issues.
As in much of the state, Cambridge is in the midst of a severe housing crisis—rents are rising and Cantabrigians of modest means are being displaced. The proposal currently being considered by our City Council would limit short-term rentals to owner-occupied and owner-adjacent units, in order to prohibit non-residents and investors from renting units solely on a short-term basis, thereby diminishing the housing supply for people who desire to make Cambridge their primary residence.
Over the past year or so the Cambridge City Council has held numerous Housing Committee, Public Safety Committee, and Ordinance Committee hearings to discuss this topic, and we are within only a few months of adopting a Short-Term Rental Ordinance. I feel that H. 3454 promulgates reasonable regulations, similar to what we have proposed in Cambridge, while also giving cities and towns the ability to set their own additional tax rate and regulations to ensure the safety of guests and to protect neighborhood character.
The bill also provides for cities to designate half of the tax funds received from commercial hosts to low- and moderate-income housing, which Cambridge and many other municipalities would greatly benefit from.
As land values continue to rise in Cambridge and in urban areas across the Commonwealth, we must strengthen our protections against speculators buying units, even entire multifamily buildings, to rent solely on a short-term basis and diminishing the available housing stock. This bill takes a solid step towards that goal by establishing a state regulatory framework with municipal flexibility.
I want to reiterate my thanks to the Chairs of the Committee for scheduling this hearing and for all of the housing advocates for their tireless work. This bill strikes a well-balanced approach to protecting our housing stock, while still allowing the short-term rental use to help individuals visit our state and help hosts supplement their income and enjoy meeting new people from all over the world.
Cambridge City Councillor
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Jan Devereux City Councillor Cambridge, MA