Our View: Time to address short-term rentals | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Time to address short-term rentals

When it comes to issues facing Steamboat Springs and Routt County, access to affordable, attainable housing is near the top of the list. There are many pieces to this puzzle, and the short-term rental market is just one of them. It affects the pool of housing available to serve the local workforce, it impacts the character of neighborhoods where local families traditionally live, and it’s a topic city and county officials must begin to tackle.

It was good to learn the city of Steamboat Springs is in the process of trying to quantify the number of properties within city limits that are being rented out on a nightly or weekly basis. This is the first step in establishing a baseline for discussion that hopefully leads to new policies aimed at better regulating and controlling short-term rentals.

By definition, a short-term rental is a furnished, self-contained apartment or home that is rented for short periods of time, often via online marketplaces, like VRBO or Airbnb. When a home is converted to a short-term rental, it is no longer available for long-term lease by people who live and work in the area, and it is also taken out of the pool of homes that local residents could potentially buy at a time when single-home inventory is incredibly low.

In our opinion, Steamboat is behind schedule to address this challenge, and rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, city leaders can learn from other mountain communities, like Aspen, Vail and Breckenridge, that have systems in place to better regulate and control short-term rentals.

At a glance

At issue: More and more properties in Steamboat Springs are moving to the short-term rental market.

Our View: City and county leaders need to address the issue of short-term rentals as one piece in the affordable housing crisis puzzle.

Editorial Board

• Logan Molen, publisher

• Lisa Schlichtman, editor

• Marion Kahn, community representative

• Laraine Martin, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at 970-871-4221 or lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com.

In Aspen, owners of short-term rentals are required to obtain a business license and pay the same lodging tax hotels pay. Once the owner applies for the license, they’re put into a database, and city officials use that database to limit where short-term rentals can be located.

When it comes to local policy, we would support requiring property owners to obtain business licenses through the city to operate their short-term rentals. Whether these individuals own one house or five, they are making money by renting out their properties and should be required to obtain a license and be regulated like other local businesses.

Short-term rentals should also be limited to certain neighborhoods. The mountain area makes the most sense, and we’d love to see a moratorium on new short-term rentals in the Old Town area of Steamboat to preserve the character of those neighborhoods where families live and parking is at a premium.

A reasonable tax on these short-term rentals would also be appropriate, especially if the city is willing to earmark the revenue for affordable housing. Short-term rentals are still classified as residential properties rather than commercial properties and, as a result, have a big tax advantage over motels, hotels and other lodging properties. This might be something the state Legislature could consider tackling by assessing a special property tax on short-term rentals that falls somewhere between residential and commercial rates.

At the county level, we’d like to see more enforcement of an existing ordinance that prohibits short-term rentals. This might require the county to allocate some resources to ensuring that housing outside of the Steamboat city limits is not being used for Airbnb or VRBO rentals.

Again, short-term rentals are just one of many aspects of the housing situation that must be addressed in the months to come. It’s an incredibly important, multifaceted issue that must be addressed sooner rather than later if we are to maintain the character of our communities and ensure our local workforce can afford to live here.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.