The Portland City Council is considering two new fees on nightly rentals in private homes.
The council heard testimony Wednesday on a proposed $4 a night booking fee, which would go toward housing and homeless initiatives, and an additional 2 percent fee, which would go toward tourism marketing.
Hotels larger than 50 rooms already pay the 2 percent fee. City officials said the nightly booking fee on short-term rentals was justified because short-term rentals for tourists have replaced potential housing for long-term residents, contributing to rising rents in recent years.
If approved, Portland’s fees on short-term rentals would be among the highest for major cities, city revenue division director Thomas Lannom said. The per-night fee is expected to raise between $1.1 million and $1.28 million a year, while the tourism fee could raise $720,000 to $840,000.
Short-term rental hosts mobilized against the proposal, saying it will have an outsize impact on homeowners while changing nothing for large hotels.
“You shouldn’t treat me like a multinational hotel chain,” said Greg Raisman, a short-term rental host who also works for the city’s transportation bureau.
Another Airbnb host, David Boe, said he charges about $26 a night for a small bedroom in his home, and that the flat fee would amount to a 15 percent surcharge.
“For the budget travelers that I cater to, that’s a big difference,” Boe said. “Economists agree that if I want to maintain occupancy, I’m going to have to absorb most of that cost myself. That’s $456 a year, which I can’t afford.”
The council didn’t vote on the proposal Wednesday, but city commissioners appeared poised to approve the fees in some form when it returns to the agenda next week.
Commissioners are likely to discuss converting the flat fee for housing initiatives to a percentage fee, however. They might also apply the tourism fee to smaller hotels with fewer than 50 rooms, which were previously exempt.
Commissioner Chole Eudaly said she believed it was reasonable for the city to charge a fee on short term rentals in an effort to mitigate the city’s declared housing emergency.
“I’m not confident that we’ve hit the right number,” Eudaly said, adding, “I’m very concerned that the things that make Portland such an appealing city and why it’s such a popular destination for tourism are going to disappear if we don’t get a handle on this housing crisis.”
— Elliot Njus