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Seattle takes another shot at regulating Airbnb

An example of a 400 square foot backyard cottage.
KUOW Photo/paintchipdiaries (CC BY NC ND 2.0)/
An example of a 400 square foot backyard cottage.

Seattle officials are taking another shot at regulating Airbnb, VRBO and other vacation rentals. City Councilmember Tim Burgess is proposing new rules after a similar plan last year attracted opposition from the rental industry.

The rules would let people operate two vacation rentals in Seattle: one short-term rental in a person’s primary residence and one other.

For example, someone who owns two homes could make a room in their residence available on Airbnb and could rent out the other on Airbnb as a private vacation home.

Burgess said the policy would allow people to continue operating vacation homes, but with limits.

"The city's primary objective is to prevent large numbers of rental housing units being converted to short term, because we want to maintain our long-term housing stock. So we're limiting short-term rentals to your primary residence and one other," Burgess said.

There is an exception to the two-unit rule. Downtown property owners would be able to rent out as many vacation units as they want, as long as they were already licensed to do so.

The Seattle Short Term Rental Alliance was against an earlier version of the proposal. A statement from the alliance says the new version shows the City Council's willingness to respond to their concerns as small business owners and that they look forward to working with the city.

Members of the public can comment on any environmental impacts from the rules until May 8.

The City Council is expected to start discussing the Airbnb/VRBO proposal in June.