In two weeks, Boston and its chief executive, Mayor Marty Walsh, will host the United States Conference of Mayors, an annual gathering of more than three hundred mayors of U.S. cities.
Walsh, recently named chair of the Conference’s committee on Housing, will deliver the event’s opening remarks, welcoming some three hundred mayors and their retinue to the city.
But next up will be an executive from a company that’s gotten a cooler reception lately in the City of Boston, not to mention many other cities whose mayors will be at the conference.
That would be Airbnb, the “title sponsor” of this year’s Conference of Mayors. The company has vigorously opposed regulations proposed by Walsh and now before Boston’s City Council.
Airbnb meanwhile is pushing back against similar regulatory pushes in other cities across the country.
The sponsorship is not new. Airbnb, as a spokesperson noted, has sponsored the U.S. Conference of Mayors for the last three years. The company’s logo appears on 45 of the 46 pages of a draft agenda for the event.
And directly following Walsh’s welcome, Airbnb Director of National Partnerships Janaye Ingram, is scheduled to give remarks to the conference’s assembled mayors.
The timing is noteworthy: Walsh’s proposed regulations could come up for a vote at the City Council’s next meeting on June 6, two days before the Conference of Mayors starts. If the Council doesn’t vote that day, the legislation will remain in limbo when the Conference arrives.
A spokesperson for Mayor Walsh told WGBH News in an email that Walsh and his office had no involvement in the solicitation of sponsorships for the Conference, which is an independent non-profit organization.
U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO Tom Cochran affirmed in an emailed statement that, “The host mayor for our meetings, in this instance Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, is not involved in the process of selecting the title sponsor” and said Airbnb is not allowed to participate in policy discussions or votes at the meeting.
The Conference of Mayors declined to share the monetary value of Airbnb’s sponsorship.
An Airbnb spokesperson also did not answer questions about the value of the sponsorship but wrote, “Airbnb has been an active member and sponsor of the U.S. Conference of Mayors for the past four years."
Airbnb and the City of Boston have not been entirely at odds as Airbnb has been supportive of some level of regulation.
But that relationship has withered as Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston’s City Council have moved closer to implementing regulations Airbnb considers stifling.
Boston City Council members are likely, though not certain, to vote on an ordinance regulating Airbnb — one that the company opposes — at the Council’s next meeting on June 6, two days before the Conference of Mayors begins.
The ordinance currently before the Council was offered by Walsh after an initial proposal met resistance from Council members who wanted stricter limits on who can operate Airbnb rentals.
Walsh’s first proposal allowed short-term rentals by so-called “investor” operators — owners who do not reside in the property. The current proposal allows only owner-occupied rentals, although owners of multi-unit houses can rent out empty units for up to 120 days per year.
Several other cities that are also considering local regulations on Airbnb include Baltimore Md., Columbus Oh., St. Paul, Mn. and Somerville, Mass. Other cities, including New York and company home San Francisco, have already passed new regulations.