Thursday, June 14, 2018

Boston City Council Imposes Strictest Rules Yet for Airbnb Rentals. How Will This Affect You?

On Wednesday June 13th, 2018, the Boston City Council imposed the strictest rules yet in the nation regarding the Airbnb rental industry. In a move meant to control the popular short-term rental business and help regulate the tough housing market, the Boston City Council enacted numerous rules and regulations meant to slow down the increasing number of Airbnb rentals in Boston. The rules prohibit investors and tenants from renting their home through short-term rental websites such as Airbnb. However, homeowners and owner-occupants are allowed to continue operating short-term rentals through their property as they please. Mayor Martin J. Walsh first proposed this bill in January, and is now prepared to sign it into law.

What is Airbnb? 

Airbnb is growing company which operates an online platform allowing people to offer short-term leases and rentals from their home. Consumers have the ability to rent short-term apartments, home-stays, holiday cottages, and condominiums. Airbnb has swept the nation in popularity, becoming an affordable alternative to hotel stays in expensive areas, and a lucrative way to generate side money.

How Will This Affect You?

Supporters are thrilled about the new laws regulating Airbnb's, hoping the legislation will decrease constraints from Boston's tight housing market. Currently, an estimated 2,000 apartments are being rented on a nightly basis through Airbnb in Boston, instead of through a traditional 12 month lease. After nearly three years of evaluating the subject, the Boston City Council decided it was time to enact serious rules and regulations.

The new rules officially take effect on January 1st, however current Airbnb hosts (who are not homeowners or owner-occupants) have until September 2019 to continue operations. This change was enacted to prevent landlords from facing numerous apartments vacancies, while also giving the hundreds of renters hosting Airbnb stays to find a new source of income.

The new rule also requires short-term rental hosts to register with the city of Boston annually, and pay a $200 fee. The registration and fee is meant to give city officials a clearer picture of the short-term rental business, to better understand and improve the future of Boston's housing market.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Soaring Taxes on Newbury Street Causing More Vacancies

Walking down Newbury Street, you may notice the dozens of vacant buildings and storefronts, which were once full and bustling with shoppers. Soaring property taxes and rents might be to blame, as store owners struggle to maintain steady profits. For decades, Newbury Street has been one of Boston's main attractions, home to some of the biggest names in retail fashion, luxury retail boutiques, and prominent restaurants. Rising demand for Boston's famed shopping area has caused a high increase in property values, leading to higher property taxes and rents for businesses. One of the most recent businesses to move is Hempest, who has been on Newbury Street for over twenty years. Hempest was forced to change store locations due to soaring rent costs, and has moved one block away from Newbury Street.

Newbury Street has become a great way for realtors to generate income, however many store owners have been struggling to manage the soaring rent costs and ability to maintain profits. Furthermore, Boston's retail scene has been changing in recent years. Established retail stores that would traditionally flock to Newbury Street are finding new opportunities in other fashionable Boston neighborhoods, including Seaport District and Downtown Crossing. 

Building values on Newbury Street have increased an average of 29% compared to the average 11% throughout the rest of the city. Commercial property tax rates are based upon building values, leading to increased rents. Financial analysts have linked the empty storefronts to the increased rents.

Despite increasing property taxes and rent prices, storefronts and restaurants located on Newbury Street enjoy enormous advantages. Back Bay's Newbury Street is one of Boston's most famed tourist destinations, and attracts large amounts of foot traffic. Newbury Street also commands considerable amounts of foot traffic and attention around the holiday season. Furthermore, a CBRE New England market outlook expects rents to stabilize in 2018.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

With Sea Levels Rising, Boston Harbor May Need Barrier Wall Protections

As sea levels dramatically rise, reports have been spreading on the idea of creating a colossal, multibillion dollar wall in Boston Harbor to protect the Seaport Neighborhood and nearby Boston neighborhoods from coastal flooding damages. Extreme flooding is expected in the coming years and decades, as climate change causes sea levels to rise.

A research team at the University of Boston is researching harbor barriers to protect the city from damaging floods. The smallest barrier proposed, would connect Logan Airport in East Boston with Castle Island in South Boston, thereby safeguarding the city's inner harbor and downtown from detrimental tidal floods. The wall barrier was also recommended in Boston's Climate Ready Boston report last year. The report stated that the barrier could potentially work well in Boston's shallow waters, but it would have to be created in a way that minimizes negative impacts on navigation and the environment. Another one would stretch 3.8 miles from Winthrop to Hull, and cost between $8 billion and $11.8 billion to build.

Another study suggested that Boston embrace the water, and convert streets into canals, similar to Venice. Researches have also suggested solutions taking place on shore, which would cost a fraction of the proposed protective barrier wall cost. These suggest shore-based systems include protective flood walls, on a small smaller scale than the proposed harbor-wide barriers. Other shore-based solutions include changes to zoning laws, and raising of the land using berms. Another great benefit of shore-based solutions would be the much smaller time frame the projects would take to reach completion. Shore-based alternatives could be built in a matter of years, while the proposed harbor-side barrier stretching from Winthrop to Hull, would most likely not reach completion until 2050. If the city of Boston decides to move forward with protective harbor-wide barrier plans, it could potentially take decades of planning and billions of dollars spent before barriers are built.