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Airbnb: Stays east of the Anacostia River grew 65 percent since mid-2017

The company’s latest report arrives as D.C. considers new regulations on short-term rentals

The intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE and Good Hope Road SE in Anacostia
The Washington Post/Getty Images

If Airbnb is to be believed, D.C. neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River “are now experiencing more visitors and seeing an important economic lift” thanks to its platform.

That’s from a new report on east-of-the-river bookings by the online home-rental service, which has operated in the District since 2009. “Guest arrivals” in Wards 7 and 8—the city sectors that lie east of the Anacostia River—grew 65 percent from June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018, according to Airbnb.

East-of-the-river neighborhoods saw roughly 29,300 total guest arrivals—or unique trips—during that period. They recorded about 17,680 guest arrivals during the prior 12 months.

The most popular neighborhoods for Airbnb stays east of the Anacostia River were in Ward 8: Anacostia, Buena Vista, Shipley Terrace, and Fairlawn. These were followed by Benning Ridge, Marshall Heights, and River Terrace in Ward 7. Of all those neighborhoods, Buena Vista experienced the greatest year-over-year percentage growth in guest arrivals—230 percent, with 1,730 trips in the most recent 12-month period.

East-of-the-river guest arrivals from 2016 to 2018

During that year, Airbnb says its east-of-the-river hosts earned $3.75 million combined from renting out units through its platform, or a 58-percent jump over the prior year. “The typical Airbnb host in these communities earned ​$4,712,” the company says. Of the guest arrivals from June 1, 2017 to May 31, 2018, 14 percent involved families with children under 13.

East-of-the-river Airbnb host income from 2016 to 2018

The company’s report comes as the D.C. Council mulls regulations on short-term rentals booked through services like Airbnb and VRBO. Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who represents much of Northeast, proposed a bill in 2017 that would require the hosts of short-term rentals to register their listings with the city and obtain special business licenses for their units. That legislation would also limit the number and duration of rental bookings.

Currently, in the preliminary version of the bill, hosts would be allowed to rent out only their permanent homes (defined as somewhere a person lives for at least “90 consecutive days”) and maintain only one listing per residence—a bedroom, a basement, or an entire property. In addition, when not staying overnight in their homes, hosts would be restricted to renting out their listings for only 15 days a year through what the legislation calls “vacation rentals.”

The D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs would be charged with enforcing these rules, including by issuing fines that would range from $1,000 to $7,000 per violation. McDuffie and other supporters of the bill say it would help to combat illegal (or unlicensed) hotels and to preserve affordable housing that sometimes gets used for short-term rentals.

Airbnb has challenged the proposed regulations as overly strict, particularly the annual 15-day cap on vacation stays. The bill was the subject of a contentious public hearing in April 2017, but lawmakers have not taken any formal action on it since then. McDuffie has said he is open to revising the bill, including the 15-day number, to “find the right balance” for D.C.

In June, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said on the Kojo Nnadmi Show that the Council would likely mark-up the legislation in “early fall.” He added that he believed that the D.C. government should focus on discouraging commercial enterprises from running illegal hotels but generally let homeowners rent out their homes on a short-term basis.

Elsewhere in the region, Fairfax County last week approved rules that allow residents to operate short-term rentals for up to 60 days a year, along with other restrictions. Those regulations require homeowners to get a permit and pay occupancy taxes for the rentals. And in late 2016, Arlington adopted rules for short-term rentals, including an 185-day cap on vacation stays and limits on the number of guests allowed at one time.