The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Hotels are thriving. Why are they worried about my Airbnb listing?

The Airbnb logo.
The Airbnb logo. (Issei Kato/Reuters)
Placeholder while article actions load

The writer lives in the Hillcrest neighborhood in the District. This essay was submitted through Airbnb.

The hotel industry in the District is booming, and times have never been better. Numbers released by the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C. are proof.

In fact, a report by the association released in March says that the District collected nearly half a billion dollars in tax revenue from hotels last year. This makes it clear that hotels in the District have no problem filling rooms or charging exorbitant rates. With the influx of visitors looking for rooms and with hotels charging higher and higher prices, industry profits are at an all-time high in the District. A Bisnow report last month said that the District has “3,108 hotel rooms under construction and another 6,621 rooms in planning” and “continued growth in tourism to D.C. should help create the demand to fill all of those new hotels.” So why are hotels and their lobbyists standing in the way of people, including me, who are listing our homes on sites such as Airbnb to make a little extra income, support our families and offer lodging options for visitors who come to the District?

I am a native Washingtonian. I have lived in my Hillcrest home for more than 30 years and raised my children here. I use my Airbnb income to help ensure that I am financially stable in retirement. I appreciate the financial benefits this has provided me and others in my community.

Airbnb hosts in the District make an average of $5,800 a year. Many hosts use this extra money to help repair and maintain aging homes, cover increased medical expenses and pay down debt.

And senior citizens such as me benefit greatly from the income. Just because we’re empty nesters doesn’t mean the nest has to stay empty and unused. For many seniors, this income is priceless in helping to keep a roof over our heads. In fact, almost 1 in 2 Airbnb hosts in the District say they use the money from hosting to afford to stay in their home.

But short-term rentals don’t help only those of us who list an extra room; they have a huge impact on our neighborhoods’ economies.

When guests come into our homes, the dollars they spend at local businesses — an average of $136 each day — go right back into making our neighborhoods stronger. These guests help small businesses such as Penny Brew, a locally founded coffee shop in Ward 7, rather than the big-box chains near downtown hotels. And guests stay longer and spend more in our communities when they use short-term rentals.

These truths are especially poignant for D.C. neighborhoods and hosts east of the Anacostia River. Of the 130-plus hotels based in the nation’s capital, not a single one is located in Hillcrest, Anacostia, Congress Heights or any east-of-the-river community. While hotels make billions in revenue and ignore these areas, native and longtime Washingtonians are opening their homes to a global community, bringing tourism dollars to local small businesses and spotlighting their unique corners of the District.

The hotel industry wants to thwart any attempt to offer an alternative to staying at a hotel to protect its profits and will work to cut off D.C. residents from earning extra income through our homes to do that.

It’s time for the hotel industry to end its obstruction of pragmatic short-term-rental rules that will help support our neighborhoods, boost local small businesses and allow families such as mine to make a little extra income.

Read more:

Dusty Horwitt and Pamela J. Lee: Learn from Arlington’s mistakes on Airbnb regulations

The Post’s View: Does Airbnb ‘belong’ in D. C.?

The Post’s View: The District’s Airbnb bill is too restrictive

The Post’s View: Regulators should resist cracking down on Airbnb