The Boston Licensing Board today granted permission to a global realty company to re-open a former SRO at 461 Massachusetts Ave., near Columbus Avenue, as a 17-unit "lodging house" aimed at business travelers and the odd medical student, with rents ranging from $1,650 to $2,150 a month.
The building had long been operated as a place for low-income people to stay for short periods in small, inexpensive rooms, when Akelius, based in Sweden, bought it in 2015. The company's local attorney, Jeff Drago, said at a hearing yesterday that the building has been empty since then, partly due to extensive renovations to bring it up to the standards required by today's business traveler's and partly because the company had to deal with zoning issues, in particular a complaint brought by a couple of nearby residents that ISD had erred in continuing to classify it as a lodging house.
Drago and an Akelius manager told the board the company intends to rent the rooms for stays of at least a month.
At first, the manager told the board he did not want that specifically written into its license, just in case somebody wanted to stay there for a shorter period of time. But after board Chairwoman Kathleen Joyce asked what the monthly rent would be and then asked how much Akelius would charge if somebody wanted to stay for less than a month, the manager then said the company would not rent for periods of less than a month.
The board's approval today contains a provision under which ISD will monitor the property to ensure it does not begin to offer the sort of short-term rentals that are forbidden under a new city ordinance aimed at reducing the number of potential housing units in the city converted to short-term rentals at the expense of long-term tenants.
The ordinance bans Airbnb and similar units in buildings owned by investors, although some zones in the city do allow for "executive suites" and "lodging houses."
On Tuesday, the Zoning Board of Appeals deferred a vote on one landlord's request to tear down a single-family home in East Boston and have the property reclassified so it could put up a building with nine executive suites, so that the board could get advice from city lawyers on possible conditions that could be placed into a board ruling to keep those from being turned into Airbnb-style units later.