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F.C. Stands Idle as Neighbors Cash In on Short-Term Lodging

TWO PROPERTIES right outside of City of Falls Church limits have been bringing in additional revenue for Fairfax County, which has a policy in place to handle short-term lodging requests, such as Airbnb and Vacation Rentals By Owner. One sits off Arlington Blvd. just south of the City. (Photo: Patricia Leslie)

If the City of Falls Church had a short-term lodging policy, it might be earning revenue just like the City of Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax County have collected for their treasuries with their new short-term regulations.

Although several places to rent short stays can be found online with Falls Church addresses, it’s unknown until final booking in most cases whether accommodations lie inside city limits.

Falls Church has no codes on its books for rental regulations like Airbnb and Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO), although Nancy Vincent, the director for housing and human services for Falls Church, says her office has received no complaints.

Since it implemented its new regulations last year, Fairfax County has collected $132,211 in transient occupancy taxes and $22,400 for 112 applications, according to county spokesman Brian Worthy.

Arlington adopted its policy in 2016 and has collected between $150,000 and $200,000 in the program in the last 12 months, said Ingrid Morroy, Arlington’s commission of revenue. Meanwhile, an Aug. 2018 article in Alexandria Living claimed Alexandria earned three times the expected income from its program.

Last month, Herndon hosted a public hearing on short-term rentals which it’s considering.

The reason for Falls Church’s inaction is unclear. Mayor David Tarter, members of City Council and other city officials could not be reached for comment, but Susan Finarelli, director of communications for the City of Falls Church, emailed a statement:

“Right now the City does not have specific city code that addresses regulations for short-term rentals beyond hotels and bed and breakfasts — nothing new has been developed since Air B&Bs [sic] and other brands have become popular. There is nothing specifically on the Council’s schedule to discuss this, but staff and Council are aware that other jurisdictions in Northern Virginia have added to their codes to address these types of rentals. If that happens in the City, staff will conduct appropriate research and the public will be welcomed to submit comments and input.”

Room rentals start around $40 per night (before fees) in the City of Falls Church, and many have a shared bath. Prices can reach $400 (or more) for four bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms (Mary Street, outside the City limits). In total, less than five lodging units are available for rent in the City.

The other property is a VRBO and is closer to Merrifield near Jefferson District Park. (Photo: Vrbo.com)

Most owners charge a cleaning fee, a service fee (for the “platform”), and state, regional and local taxes which go to general budgets, tourism and transportation.

Fairfax County charges $200 for a two-year permit. Arlington has issued about 125 permits (at $65 each) since last October, according to Jessica Margarit, a manager at Arlington’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

Prices and places can fluctuate daily at the rental sites hosted by lodging brokers.

The Falls Green community, part of the Oakwood complex on Roosevelt Boulevard inside City limits, had several listings on Airbnb, varying from a studio to two beds for one night. However, final charges could not be determined.

An apartment close to the State Theatre and likely within City limits, goes for $125 a night at Airbnb without a cleaning fee, but charges $65 for service and $30 for occupancy tax and fees for “general sales and use tax (Falls Church),” according to the listing.

Based on the estimated map location, “Pixie’s Place” appears to be within the city limits, too. It has a minimum two-night stay and a rate of $75 per night for an apartment of one bedroom and one private bath, $75 for cleaning, $29, service fee, and $14 for ”occupancy taxes and fees” which includes state and regional taxes and “general sales and use tax (Falls Church).”

Another Falls Church address two miles from the East Falls Church Metro, which appears to be inside the City limits based on the Airbnb map, has a four-night minimum for $40-$42 per night for one bedroom, one private bath and a cleaning fee of $25, service, $25, and “occupancy taxes and fees” including those for Falls Church at $12.

Outside city limits, an address is advertised off Arlington Boulevard for a room with a private bathroom for $60 or $65 per night, depending upon date requested.

Airbnb offers owners the option of collecting taxes to pay jurisdictions.

While the City’s interest in creating a policy for the rentable properties remains ambiguous, neighboring localities continue to bring in thousands of additional dollars to support their own citizens.