Meetings This Week: Short Term Rentals & Local Preference for Affordable Housing

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Watertown City Hall

Two City Council Committee meetings will take place this week, the first will discuss the rules for short-term rentals, and whether to give preference to Watertown residents to get affordable housing units in town.

Short-Term Rentals

On Monday, April 3, the Committee on Rules & Ordinances will continue to discuss creation of a short term rental ordinance.

Currently, short-term rentals (such as Airbnb or VRBO) are not allowed in Watertown, but dozens are listed on the Airbnb site. The Council has held multiple meetings over the past few years about short-term rentals, and in June 2021 they recommended that the Planning Board support a set of rules for short-term rentals. City officials argue that having rules would ensure that the rentals would meet certain standards and fines could be assessed for violations.

The meeting is on April 3 at 6 p.m. in the Council Chamber in City Hall and also remote. See more here.

Local Preference

On Tuesday, local preference for affordable housing will be the focus of a joint meeting of the Committees on Economic Development & Planning and Human Services.

There are long waiting lists for Watertown Housing Authority units, and other affordable units in Watertown. The Committees will discuss adopting a community or local preference policy for affordable housing. Tuesday, April 4, 6:30 p.m. In the Third Floor Conference Room in City Hall and remote. Click here for info

5 thoughts on “Meetings This Week: Short Term Rentals & Local Preference for Affordable Housing

  1. The Short-term rentals have become a big issue in Watertown. Many people are being negatively affected by them and many people feel we should just put in place a rule saying THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED rather than trying to establish rules that will be hard to enforce, may cause more expenses by the need for hiring extra city employees to handle applications, coordinate inspections, respond to violations, and put residents in the middle for reporting illegal units or reporting violations in their neighborhoods.

    Why do we always need to do whatever some other cities like Cambridge do and allow these rentals? If people want this type of rental, they have many other options in other cities around us. Watertown is not a tourist destination.

    Many of us don’t want strangers coming and going in our neighborhoods in periods of 1 to 31-day timeframes. Why do we want to accommodate strangers’ wants over the needs of our tax-paying owners and residents?

    We don’t have a lot of parking on our streets and now that parking is allowable on the streets again during May through November, will we have more parking issues with extra cars for the short-term rentals? It’s human nature to avoid our stacked parking situations and just park on the street, and these extra cars could be the tipping point.

    Do we want to create problems between and for people in our neighborhoods over an issue like this when we can JUST SAY NO now to creating a bunch of rules that will be difficult to enforce.

    It is my understanding that people completing applications for airbnb and vrbo and others need to go through a MA site as the state gets about a 6% fee for these types of rentals. The City of Watertown has access to those sites and knows what properties are currently operating these existing not authorized rental units, about 100 plus of them here. They need to be shut down NOW and once the rule that they are not legal here is put into place, fines can be applied until these units are removed. If unauthorized ones pop up in the future, there should be steep enough fines put into place to discourage any more.

    If you can attend the 6 p.m. meeting on Monday, April 3, at the Watertown City Hall, this will give you an opportunity to express your views in a public forum and make a difference in the lives of your friends and neighbors.

  2. I agree with everything that Joan has presented; cogent common sense. Watertown (should it be referred to as Watercity???) has historically been a quiet residential haven and I personally want it to remain as such. I still have difficulty with the city designation, and aside from the break in custom, it certainly must have an economic effect as in causing the establishment of numerous staffing positions. Incidentally, if that was the case, if the staffing increases were required anyway, did we have to go with a city designation? I know that I am whipping a dead horse, but..!

    • What positions are you referring to that were created by becoming a city? Technically, Watertown became a city in the early 80s. Back then there were positions added, such as the Town (now City) Manager.

      The change to officially becoming a city was the legal name which went from “The City Known as the Town of Watertown” to “The City of Watertown.” That was done in the 2021 election.

      • Well said Charlie. The endless misrepresentation of what it means to have a city form of government (since 1980) continues despite efforts to educate the public for the past 40 years.

  3. Watertown is in a geographic sweet spot for both its proximity to Boston and central location to all major nearby routes and highways. (MA Pike, Rt. 20, Rt.2, Rt.128, Rt. 9, Soldiers Field Rd. and Storrow Drive are all within 3 miles or minutes to reach). With visitors desired access to nearby medical and educational Colleges/Universities facilities and services, many of Watertown’s older 2 family neighborhoods will become prime target opportunities for institutional investors to buy up as they have across many other parts of the country. These same neighborhoods are under tremendous pressure today from the rising redevelopments along their boundaries with massive buildings being constructed and encroaching on top of them. It is very likely that allowing these STR’s to gain a foothold will result in the loss of these traditionally family owner occupied neighborhoods in the years to come. I urge all residents to step up and stop another short-sighted policy decision the same as the many previous ones over the years that have resulted in the current runaway overdevelopment across what little is left of Watertown.

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