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Baltimore hosts generate nearly $20 million in Airbnb income in 2019, company says

Airbnb hosts who rented out city properties generated nearly $20 million in cumulative income in 2019 — an increase of over 24% from the previous year, the company announced Wednesday.

The announcement follows the Baltimore City Council’s approval of an ordinance regulating and extending the hotel tax to short-term residential rentals.

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City hosts racked in $18.5 million total on Airbnb and welcomed 131,500 guests last year, leading all other Maryland counties in renters’ income and visitors welcomed. In 2018, Baltimore also led the state in total host income and guest arrivals with $14.9 million and 107,000 visitors.

Baltimore’s reported surging figures come after the passage of city legislation meant to even the playing field between hosting platforms such as Airbnb, FlipKey and VRBO and the hotel industry. Lobbyists called for restrictions on the short-term hosting platforms, arguing that rentals’ exemption from many regulations was an unfair advantage.

The ordinance, signed by former Mayor Catherine Pugh in 2019, imposes a 9.5% tax on the rentals’ listing price and requires hosts to obtain a license that they must renew biennially. The rental properties must also comply with the city’s building, fire and related codes, and hosts may only list their primary residences for rental purposes (although, those who operated additional units before Dec. 31, 2018 could have one additional location “grandfathered” into the new ordinance).

Under the ordinance, platforms may not collect fees from unlicensed hosts and must keep records available for the city to collect at any time.

Behind Baltimore, Montgomery County ranked second in combined income with $13.7 million, followed by Prince George’s County with $12.9 million and Garrett County with $4.2 million. The state saw over 470,000 guests arrive in Maryland for short-term stays on Airbnb in 2019, according to the figures included in the announcement.

In a statement, Kelly Gossett, the head of public policy for Airbnb in Maryland, said the company offers a supplemental income avenue for state residences, even when in compliance with local regulations.

“2019 was another great year for Airbnb in Maryland, with more local residents embracing the economic opportunities offered by home sharing — and small businesses and entire communities benefiting as a result," Gossett said.

Airbnb’s announcement also highlighted the state’s most popular weekends for guest accommodation, which included Memorial Day Weekend and the U.S. Naval Academy Commissioning Week. Some 68,300 visitors arrived in the state during Maryland’s top five weekends for guest arrivals, which occurred in May, June, July and August.

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Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young co-sponsored the licensing and regulation ordinance for short-term residential rentals along with lead sponsor, councilman Eric Costello. Young’s spokesman, Lester Davis, said though the city could not verify Airbnb’s reported earnings and would run its own analysis soon, the announcement serves as a point of encouragement for the city.

“The city council was looking to have a situation where the integrity of neighborhoods could be protected while allowing folks to participate in the growing sharing economy,” he said. “The numbers lend themselves to the notion that there is a way to accomplish both things.”

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