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Portland OKs Airbnb-type short-term rentals

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PORTLAND, Ore. » The Portland City Council voted Wednesday to legalize short-term rentals in single-family homes, giving added legitimacy to rental websites such as Airbnb.

Homeowners will be allowed to rent one or two bedrooms once a safety inspection is done and neighbors are notified.

Mayor Charlie Hales and the city commissioners said they want Portland to be active in the "sharing economy." Later this year, they plan to discuss whether to also legalize short-term rentals in apartment buildings and condos.

"I have concerns about having unregulated, untaxed competitors of a regulated, taxed industry operating in the city, which has been happening," Commissioner Steve Novick said before casting his vote.

Airbnb, the popular online company based in San Francisco, agreed to collect lodging taxes and has been doing so since July 1. David Owen, regional head of public policy for Airbnb, said Portland is the first city for which the company is collecting such taxes.

Besides nearly $500,000 in projected tax revenue for the first 12 months, Airbnb plans to add 160 jobs to Portland by establishing the city as its operational headquarters for North America.

The council voted 4-0 in favor of the measure, and one commissioner was absent. The mayor has a family connection to Airbnb — his daughter dates its cartographer — but still voted.

"He would recuse himself for all votes that (directly) involve his daughter," said Dana Haynes, the mayor’s spokesman. Haynes said Hales supports the measure because the shared economy is already flourishing, and city policy should match that reality.

Though people who rent their property through the Internet take business away from traditional hotels and motels, the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association did not take a strong stance. John Hamilton, the vice president for of marketing and communications, said the group wants homeowners who were operating illegally to take care of the lodging taxes and get inspections to protect against health risks.

"If they can take care of those things, then we wouldn’t necessarily oppose them," he said. "We just want fair treatment."

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