Our Opinion: Lawmakers compromise on complex Airbnb issue

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The state has been trying to find a way to regulate short-term rentals through Airbnb without harming residents who have long rented out their homes or rooms within them for a couple of years and may have come upon a solution. There is less than a week remaining, however, to enact it into law.

The House and Senate last Thursday passed a bill applying a 5.7 percent state tax on short-term rentals and allowing towns to levy their own taxes up to 6 percent. However, people who rent their homes 14 or fewer nights a year would be exempt. A state registry will be created, but only the community and street names will be included, not the specific addresses, although municipalities have the option to require more details. The tax exemptions and compromise on the registry constitute attempts to address the concerns of Gov. Baker, who refused to sign an earlier bill. He must sign this one before Jan. 1 for it to become law.

The Airbnb issue is of significance to the Berkshire towns that fear neighborhoods will be changed to their detriment if homes are bought by absentee owners to serve as rentals to out-of-town visitors. Lenox tried to get ahead of the game with its own Airbnb regulations but they were rejected at a town meeting amid objections that they were too burdensome on those who rent their homes on a short-term basis. Other Berkshire towns have decided to wait on the state.

The Airbnb industry opposes this compromise but it has never shown any concern for those who have legitimate concerns about the health of their neighborhoods. This bill finds a solid middle ground, but if the governor doesn't act this week we hope the Airbnb bill reemerges early in the next session.

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