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"Airbnb" is licensed by CC
Brian Johnson and Dane Kantner / flickr

New short-term rental regulations are in effect in Seattle. Property owners, including those using online platforms such as Airbnb, now face limits on how many units they can rent and require an extra license to operate.

Hot housing markets in major cities like Seattle and Portland have pushed the cities to regulate short-term rentals like Airbnb. But small Pacific Northwest towns popular with visitors are also struggling to balance the growth of Airbnb-type rentals with a tight housing supply. 

Newport, Oregon, is the latest to put those types of rentals in the crosshairs.

Voters in Gearhart, Oregon, sent a decisive message this week about limiting vacation rentals in neighborhoods. The Oregon beach town is the first Northwest place to hold a vote of the people on an issue that's cropping up in city councils across the region.

From Ashland to Whistler, Northwest cities large and small are grappling with whether and how to regulate short term rentals of accommodations. Concern about rowdy behavior or preserving housing stock for workers motivates regulation.

Michael and Debbie Campbell, the "Senior Nomads," near Almaty, Kazakhstan this summer.
Senior Nomads

About four years ago, Michael and Debbie Campbell sold their home in Seattle, put their things in storage, and began living full-time in Airbnbs. Since then, the self-described “Senior Nomads” have stayed in 68 countries and 168 different homes.

They told us about their adventures on a previous edition of “Going Places.” But now they're on to new things.  

The city of San Francisco has settled with Airbnb and HomeAway, concluding a lawsuit brought by the two short-term home rental companies by agreeing to new registration procedures for prospective hosts. The case, which had been heard in federal court, hinged on how the companies comply with a recently instituted city law.

Acknowledging that his company has "been slow on this issue," Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky is rolling out changes aimed at addressing discrimination complaints against the home rental service. Among the changes: de-emphasizing the role of user photos in arranging stays.

The move comes after longstanding complaints from African-American Airbnb customers who said their booking requests were turned down at a high rate.

"Airbnb" is licensed by CC
Brian Johnson and Dane Kantner / flickr

Finding a place to live in Seattle isn’t easy. Prices are high and inventory is low. Some say short-term rentals, like Airbnbs, are part of the problem.  Services like Airbnb are part of the so-called sharing economy — they allow homeowners to rent out spare rooms so they can make extra money.  Proponents say that extra cash is helping them pay their mortgages and stay in Seattle. 

Elaine Thompson / AP Photo

The ride-app company Uber says it now has 10,000 active drivers in the Seattle region. It’s an example of what’s come to be called the “gig economy,” in which people use apps such as Uber or Airbnb to make some extra dough.

But author Steven Hill says these workers who are classified by the companies as independent contractors are being left behind because they lack benefits and the safety net of traditional employment. Workers such as these are sometimes called “1099 workers” because of the tax form they file instead of the regular W-2 form that employees use.