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Don't let Airbnb be a 'stealth business'

Jack Reilly has a host of terrible things to say about the proposed ordinance regulating Airbnb and its ilk (“Baltimore should encourage Airbnb, not discourage investment,” Feb. 6). It is unclear whether any of them are true or whether we should care if they are.

The Sun’s article on the proposed law said: "In addition to levying the tax, the new bill would require hosts to register with the city and pay an annual $100 fee. Hosts would be required to keep records of their guests and share them with city authorities if requested, as would the online platforms. City authorities would have the ability to yank the license of a host who fails to comply with city building, fire, health and zoning rules" (“Baltimore City Council to consider strict limits on Airbnb-type rentals,” Feb. 5).

Hotel tax, registration, annual fee, record-keeping, compliance with city rules. Those do not sound very onerous, and it is even possible the bill might be amended to waive the tax for charities like Ronald McDonald House, for which Mr. Reilly professes concern. I doubt that concern. I think his sole interest is in profits, and not the good of the city or anyone else. He says he outbid three landlords who would have converted the house to Section 8 housing, which he describes as "bare-bones" as if it were barely safe, let alone decent. In fact, the requirements for Section 8 are fairly stringent. The house would not have been luxurious, but probably nice enough. And Baltimore needs more affordable housing, including more Section 8 rentals, whereas it does not benefit greatly from stealth businesses.

With fewer investors who think rules are for other people, useful investors would be more likely to obtain auctioned properties and put them to use that benefits the city.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam

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