A city audit on Portland’s short-term rentals hosted through companies like Airbnb revealed that nearly 80 percent of the city’s rentals operate without a mandatory city permit. That hardly came as a surprise to city staff or housing advocates, since the city has no way to enforce regulations around short-term rentals. Currently, Airbnb and similar companies have refused to share data about their listings and hosts with the city, while inspectors have no idea where unpermitted rentals are. The audit’s data itself is shaky, since it comes from an outside research company unaffiliated with rental companies.
The city introduced short-term housing rules in 2014 to disincentivize Airbnb hosts from turning needed affordable housing units into vacation rentals.
“Without data, the original version of the rules is completely unenforceable,” says Marshall Runkel, chief of staff for Commissioner Chloe Eudaly.
Perhaps worse than the small-time hosts and companies shirking the rules is the city’s inability to regulate what it calls “commercial” short-term rental outfits—people or businesses that manage multiple short-term rentals across the city. By repeatedly violating one of the city’s key rules for short-term rentals—that a host must occupy the residence at least nine months of the year—hosts and the services they use, like Airbnb, are adding to the city’s dearth of available housing.
Airbnb currently shares its rental data with cities like San Francisco and New York City. According to the city’s revenue director, Thomas Lannom, Portland is negotiating with those companies to start sharing their data, but it’s unknown when those talks will conclude. In Lannom’s words: “Soon.” ALEX ZIELINSKI
TriMet has a growing problem with fare evasion on the MAX. According to a study released last week by Portland State University, 14.7 percent of surveyed riders failed to pay fare on the MAX in 2018, a 3.1 percent increase from 2016. That’s an unusually high rate compared to cities with a similar type of ticket system, like Berlin, which considers 5 percent to be a high rate for fare evasion. TriMet’s hoping their “honored citizens program” program will diminish the company’s problem with free rides. TriMet spokesperson Roberta Altstadt says that fare citations now come with information about the program, which allows veterans, the elderly, and those with low-incomes to pay cheaper fares. The honored citizen program cuts the cost of daily rides in half, to $2.50 per day, and offers $28 monthly passes. In some cases, riders can enroll in the honored citizens program instead of paying a fare-evasion fine. “It gives them an opportunity to break that cycle and change that behavior,” Altstadt says. “We definitely think that will help people who are struggling financially to realize they can play by the rules.” KELLY KENOYER