Washington, D.C.'s council delayed its consideration Tuesday of a punishing new ordinance that will make it hard for homeowners in the capitol to put their capital to work.

If it ultimately becomes law next month, this bill will essentially wreck a well-developed and much-in-demand market within D.C. for home-sharing and room-sharing through apps like Airbnb and HomeAway — a vibrant market that is helping ordinary people supplement their incomes.

This debate matters because bad ideas have a way of spreading. If D.C. makes the mistake of caving to special interests and passing this law, then cities across the country will follow.

One of the great benefits of the modern Internet economy is that it is allowing the little guy to put more and more of his capital to work. A district homeowner can generate an income with his car (through Uber), his knowledge (through online tutoring apps), his craftsmanship (through Etsy), or in this case, the use of his home or of a spare room within it.

So why is D.C.'s council so eager to ruin a good thing for its residents?

D.C. has no excuse, other than protectionism for overpriced hotels and for the union that services them. And make no mistake: The council will cause tourists to look elsewhere if it manages to make an estimated 80 to 90 percent of short-term rentals illegal, as one local civic activist has estimated after studying the bill.

This change to the terms of homeownership in D.C. is especially mean-spirited because of the disproportionate harm it will do to black homeowners. As the Pew Trusts recently reported, home values have decreased since 2000 in nearly 20 percent of ZIP codes where blacks are the majority of homeowners, but in only 2 percent of all other ZIP codes. Most neighborhoods in D.C. are still majority black, and black homeowners are among those making full use of Airbnb to generate income from their properties without having to move out of the District.

More importantly, even homeowners who don’t engage in home-sharing can benefit when short-term rental value is factored into the prices for which local homes sell.

Advocates of this bill make the specious argument that short-term rentals are reducing the amount of housing available in the District. This is nonsense. On any given day, there might be hundreds of Airbnb openings in D.C., but there are never thousands. The share of living quarters given over to Airbnb is minimal, and there is no danger at all to the long-term market for rental housing.

In short, Washingtonians renting their homes through Airbnb aren’t hurting anyone. And as long as people aren't harming their neighbors or damaging their neighborhood, they should be allowed to use their property as they see fit.

That's a good rule for local governments everywhere to keep in mind.