Supporters of accessory dwelling units (ADUs) claim that it’s a “myth” that they will be turned into AirBnBs or other short-term rentals.
Unfortunately, the law is not always a good guide to what happens.
Portland is often cited as the promised land by ADU supporters. Like Montgomery County, Portland’s ADU guidelines state that they are “designed for residential occupancy independent of the primary dwelling unit.”
But according to a survey prepared for a 2018 report prepared by the Institute for Sustainable Solutions (ISS) at Portland State University, 31% of ADUs are for short-term housing, defined as stays as less than one month. Only 56% are being used as someone’s primary residence. ISS is staunchly pro-ADU, so it’s hard to throw dirt on the statistics as part of a nefarious anti-ADU plot.
While intended as residential dwelling units, many are used as AirBnBs or the equivalent. The survey did not present statistics on what percentage were in compliance with Portland’s permitting requirements for short-term rentals.
Councilmember Hans Riemer laudably wants to focus ADUs on housing rather than hotel space. In a recent email blast, he touted “the units could not be used for short-term rentals (i.e., Airbnb)” under his proposed legislation.
Unfortunately, illegal AirBnBs already exist with impunity in Montgomery County. Here is a photo of one operating in Bethesda:
A complaint was filed about this illegal AirBnB with the County last April. The complaint was “resolved” by kicking it over to the Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA).
The county database shows no sign of an ongoing investigation. Apparently, they got a license after the complaint was filed but the current usage is not in compliance for these sorts of rentals. One also wonders if the county or the state is even capturing the appropriate tax from this usage since they don’t know it exists despite advertisements on AirBnB.
Increasing the burden on county enforcement authorities through the addition of hundreds of ADUs per year seems an unlikely way to solve the problem. As the County fails to keep on top of existing situations with complaints, it’s hard to have faith that a ban on AirBnBs in ADUs will be anything other than totally meaningless.