Seattle Council approves short term rentals tax

KING 5's Chris Daniels reports.

The Seattle City Council approved taxing short term rentals – like Airbnb – to raise millions more in tax revenue.

It's an idea that stalled at the Council, but was given new traction during the budget cycle and discussions about the homeless emergency. Mayor Tim Burgess floated the idea as an alternative to a proposed head tax on businesses earlier this month.

Councilmember Rob Johnson, whose committee approved the measure, actually tried to stop the full vote Monday, noting that the language needed more work.  The ordinance was split in two – one on taxes, one on regulations – and councilmembers voted to not vote on the regulations.  That will be discussed further in committee.  

Councilmember Debora Juarez was the swing vote, approving of the tax discussion and not the regulations. That gave councilmembers Mike O'Brien, Kshama Sawant, Kirsten Harris-Talley, and Lisa Herbold the requisite majority to get a vote to the floor.  

Once there, all nine councilmembers approved of the amended legislation, which will charge short term units $14 a day and rooms $8 a day. It is still unclear how the funds will be directed, starting in 2019.  

Sawant, and O'Brien clearly want to use the money for homeless services, but Herbold and Johnson noted that the money has been targeted for renovation of the State Convention Center.

That discussion will likely continue Tuesday, and will be centered around discussion of the proposed business head tax. More than 90 businesses, including Tom Douglas and Ivar's, signed a letter in opposition to the proposal from O'Brien, Sawant, and Harris-Talley. It is not clear if there is majority support for that proposal, yet.

© 2017 KING-TV


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