How McDuffie’s bill would punish the middle class: Chris’ story

When Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie proposed an anti-home sharing bill in January, it purported to be a legislative measure to fight back against the shortage of affordable housing units in the District of Columbia. Now, the Councilmember claims this deeply flawed bill which includes a long list of onerous restrictions on home sharing – most egregious, a 15-day cap on “vacation rentals” – is only targeted at commercial operators in the District. But that just isn’t true. Our DC host community is comprised of hard-working, middle-class people who rely on home sharing to pay their bills in an increasingly expensive city and this bill is targeted at them.

Meet host, Chris Boggerson.

A registered nurse who has worked at the same hospital for 37 years, Chris is a proud Washingtonian, having lived in her Columbia Heights home since 1974. When Chris’ mother fell ill several years ago,  she  invested in some costly renovations to make her home wheelchair accessible. When her mother passed away in 2013, faced with a stack of renovation bills and looming repairs on her 100-year old home, a friend told Boggerson about Airbnb. “It costs $12,000 a year to keep the house up,” Chris said. “Airbnb has allowed me to pay those bills.”

Chris typically rents out her renovated basement apartment three times per month for three to four days at a time, but McDuffie’s bill — which prohibits the renting of basement units and limits Chris’ ability to host while traveling for work and to visit family — would take that critical extra income away.

“If I can’t make that extra income from Airbnb, then money would have to be taken out of my retirement or my house would go into disrepair,” said Boggerson.

Having lived in Columbia Heights for over forty years, Boggerson has seen the neighborhood change. If forced to sell her home, Boggerson wouldn’t be able to afford to move somewhere else in the District. “I wouldn’t even qualify for the mortgage on my salary,” she noted. In addition to saving for retirement and keeping her house up, Chris is helping her son pay back his student loans — an additional financial burden on her plate.

Home sharing brings benefits to Chris’ life that go far beyond the financial. When guests stay with Chris, she plays tour guide, giving them Metrocards, showing them bus and bike routes and providing recommendations for local shops, restaurants and cafes. One family was so enamored with their experience staying with Chris that they made her a plaque which says, “Some people quietly come into your life, but you remember them for a long time.”