Portland considers ramping up Airbnb enforcement

PORTLAND GOVERNMENT ROUNDUP: City prepared to be tougher on hosts without permits; approves all-electric taxi company; reacts to study comparing urban commute times

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The City of Portland is about to get tougher on short-term rental hosts who have not yet secured necessary permits.

The Revenue Division recently sent letters to a number of booking companies, threatening fines if they aren’t in compliance by April 5, the Portland Tribune reports.

Last summer, the city started requiring permits before people rent out their properties for the night, which requires a $178 permit fee and a cursory safety inspection of their property. So far, only 105 local hosts — probably less than 5 percent of those doing short-term rentals — have received the required city permit. Another 76 applications are pending, according to the Bureau of Development Services.

The Bureau of Development Services only enforces the permit requirements if someone complains about a specific property. But the city Revenue Division, which collects lodging taxes, is taking a more proactive approach. Pushed by the Revenue Division, the City Council adopted a new ordinance taking effect Feb. 20 that imposed new requirements on the booking agents who broker short-term rentals, such as Airbnb. The Revenue Division is taking a “graduated approach” to enforcing that ordinance, said director Thomas Lannom. He started by sending letters in January and February alerting 11 companies that broker short-term rentals of the city’s new requirements, which include collecting lodging taxes on behalf of the city where possible, and assuring local hosts get city permits before displaying their homes on web listings. Eventually, the city reserves the right to get the names and addresses of all local hosts from the companies.

 Along with Airbnb, the city sent letters to Craigslist, FlipKey, HomeAway, OnlineVacationRentals, Rentalo.com, TripAdvisor, Vacation Home Rentals, Vacation Rentals.com, VRBO and Vacasa.

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EcoCab approved by City Council

An all-electric taxi company got approval from the city to operate Wednesday.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports:

EcoCab will start off with 15 electric cars and wheelchair accessible vans in its Portland fleet, but its newly approved application will allow the company to add as many as 51 vehicles over time. EcoCab owner Ron Knori says he hopes that most of his growing fleet will consist of Tesla Model S sedans. Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz told Knori she welcomes EcoCab as a regulated taxi company, and warned such ride service companies as Lyft and Uber against making any assumptions that they will be allowed to operate in the city without regulatory mechanism in place.

“I appreciate that [EcoCab] is moving towards the employee-based model rather than the contractor,” said Fritz.

The company plans to pay drivers $10 an hour.

Your commute could be worse, study says

New York comptroller Scott M. Stringer released a study earlier this month comparing the commute times of major cities.

Portland finished seventh with an average commute of 3.48 hours a week, the Portland Business Journal reports.

Stringer took data from the American Community Survey, a division of the Census Bureau, to analyze the average time spent each week commuting to work in the 30 largest U.S. cities. Adding in average hours worked per week, the results paint a picture of which cities are getting the work-life balance thing right — and those that aren’t doing so well.

New York, with an average weekly commute of 6.18 hours and 42.5 hours spent on the job, ranked dead last at No. 30 with the highest amount of hours working and commuting per week. NYC’s commute time is nearly an hour longer than the next closest city, Chicago, which spends 5.25 hours getting to and from work each week. On the flip side we find Milwaukee, a Midwest city that, apparently, has quick commute times and short working hours. Milwaukee’s 3.4 hour commute and 41.14 hour work week place it in a healthy No. 1.

Portlanders work 42.09 hours a week, the study found.

“While we have not reviewed this specific data set, this report seems to affirm a lot of Portland’s efforts for decades to create 20-minute neighborhoods, to encourage mixed-use development and promote public transit use. Our transportation and land use policies give more people more choices for how they get around,” said Portland Bureau of Transportation spokesman Dylan Rivera in Mason Walker’s story.