Friday, June 15, 2018

Boston City Council Looks At Salary Increases & CPA Fund, Votes on AirBNB & Upcoming Hearings

City Councilor-At-Large Michelle Wu publishes notes from Boston City Council meetings. The Boston City Council considered the following items and more at their June 13, 2018 meeting:

Salary Increases: Mayor Walsh filed legislation to amend the Salary Categories for Certain Offices following the recommendations of the City of Boston Compensation Advisory Board. These include increasing the Mayor’s salary from $199,000 to $207,000, City Councilors from $99,500 to $103,500, and various department heads’ salary ranges. The salary for elected officials, including the Mayor, would take effect after the next relevant municipal election. The matter was assigned to the Committee on Government Operations for a hearing.

Community Preservation Fund: Mayor Walsh filed an appropriation order to transfer $8,035,055 from the FY18 community preservation fund revenues for community preservation projects at the recommendation of the Community Preservation Committee. As part of the Community Preservation Act, the City Council must approve such authorization orders from the Community Preservation Fund in order to implement the recommendations of the Committee. The funds will be used towards affordable housing, historic preservation, and parks and open space projects around Boston. You can find details on all the proposed capital projects here. The matter was assigned to the Committee on the Community Preservation Act for a hearing.

Short-Term Rentals: The Council voted to pass an amended Short Term Rentals ordinance after seven rounds of amendments! Here’s the play-by-play:
  • Councilor Flaherty, as Chair of the Committee on Government Operations, reported out of committee an amended ordinance (read the committee report and language here). The main changes included removing the 120-day cap on owner-adjacent units, requiring that the information in the new Short Term Rentals registry be made public and reporting every year.
  • 120-Day Cap (rejected 7-6, Councilors Essaibi George, Flynn, O’Malley, Pressley, Wu, Zakim voting in the minority): Councilor O’Malley moved to reinstate the 120-day cap on Owner-Adjacent Units, expressing concerns that closing down the downtown investor market for Short Term Rentals would push demand to the neighborhoods and destabilize the outer neighborhoods with a higher proportion of 2- and 3-family homes, including in his district.
  • Biannual Reporting (passed 12-1, Councilor Flaherty voting against): Councilor O’Malley moved to require reporting with specific data every six months, rather than yearly as in the draft ordinance.
  • One Whole Unit at a Time (passed 8-5, Councilors Baker, Campbell, Ciommo, Flaherty, McCarthy voting against): I filed an amendment (split into two provisions after a challenge from Councilor Flaherty to Divide the Question and affirmed by Councilor Campbell; this is the first part) to limit operators to listing one whole unit at a time. This means that an owner-occupant of a 2- or 3-family home could list an owner-adjacent unit 365 days per year, and extra bedrooms in his or her primary resident unit 365 days per year, but if that person intends to list the entire primary resident unit while on vacation or out of town for up to 90 days, s/he can’t additionally list the owner-adjacent unit and leave a hotel-like situation for 90 days of the year.
  • Wind-Down Provision (passed 10-2, Councilors Flaherty and Janey against): The second part of my amendment, which I was happy to add Councilor Baker as a co-sponsor on since it was similar to one he was intending to propose, creates a mechanism to ease the transition for those whose economic opportunities will be eliminated or limited by our new ordinance. The language maintains the January 1st, 2019, implementation date, but allows existing units contracted for Short Term Rentals with a lease in place as of June 1, 2018, to continue operating until the expiration of the lease or September 1, 2019, whichever date comes first. That means that the units contracted long-term could transition back to the housing market when renters are looking, most often in September or one of the summer months. Other cities that have passed similar regulations have provided for a wind-down period of 1-3 years.
  • Buildings with Up to 6 Units (rejected 9-4, Councilors Baker, Ciommo, Essaibi George, McCarthy voting in favor): Councilor Baker proposed amending the provision that allows for owner-adjacent units for owner-occupants of 2- or 3-family homes, to increase that eligibility for owner-occupants of 4-, 5-, and 6-unit buildings. Councilors Baker and Ciommo noted that the City’s current Rental Registry distinguishes between landlords at 6+ vs. under 6-unit buildings.
  • Investor Units with 5% Cap (rejected, only by voice vote, not roll call): Councilor Ciommo moved to add a provision that would allow investor units for Short Term Rentals, provided that the total number of investor units per building would not exceed 5% of the total units. He expressed concern that shutting down downtown demand would shift all demand to neighborhoods, and said his solution would be to increase competition by allowing some investor units with a reasonable cap.
  • Tenants (rejected 10-3, Councilors Baker, Ciommo, McCarthy in favor): Councilor McCarthy proposed an amendment to allow tenants to offer short-term rentals as well, stating that he believed this would help ensure equity.
  • Process: Councilor Essaibi George expressed frustration that there was not an additional working session before today’s vote.
  • FINAL vote on amended version, including the 3 successful amendments: PASSED 11-2, Councilors Baker and Ciommo voting against.
Upcoming Hearings (Livestream)
  • Monday, 6/18 at 10AM: Hearing on Tree Coverage (Environment, Sustainability & Parks)
  • Monday, 6/18 at 3PM: Hearing on Teacher Diversity in BPS (Education)
  • Tuesday, 6/19 at 4PM: Hearing on Usage of Surveillance Technology (Public Safety & Criminal Justice)
  • Friday, 6/22 at 1PM: Hearing on Equitable Access to Public Transportation & Cashless MBTA Fares (Planning, Development & Transportation)
  • Monday, 6/25 at 10AM: Hearing on Curbside Composting (Environment, Sustainability & Parks)
  • Thursday, 6/28 at 2PM: Hearing on Resident Parking (Planning, Development & Transportation)
For complete notes on Boston City Council meetings, visit or sign up to receive these notes automatically.

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