Boise City Council Considering Rules on Short-Term Rentals
Over the past few months, Chris Runyan has made presentations to neighborhood associations in Boise on the need for the city to regulate short-term rentals, where rooms, apartments, or entire homes are converted to vacation rentals and booked. via platforms such as Airbnb and Vrbo.
Runyan, an East End landlord and member of Protect Boise Neighborhoods, said he has noticed an increase in short-term rentals in his neighborhood. In response, his organization gave several presentations and called city leaders to try to bring the issue of short-term rentals to the fore. He didn’t get a lot of answers.
“It has been very difficult to get anyone’s attention to this issue,” Runyan said by phone.
However, he might soon get his wish.
Boise city council leaders said an ordinance providing for new short-term rental regulations is expected to be submitted to council in the coming months. While the exact wording is still being drafted, an approval by the board would cement the controversial industry’s first regulation in the Idaho capital.
“We believe everyone would be better off… if we ensure that these properties are licensed and insured properly,” said Board Chair Elaine Clegg.
Clegg said the order would likely include requirements for short-term rental operators to obtain a license from the city and show proof of insurance. These closely resemble provisions of a draft ordinance presented at a council working session in October.
Council members are divided over the ordinance, with Patrick Bageant and Holli Woodings saying there is little evidence that short-term rentals are an issue the city needs to address. Mayor Lauren McLean said an ordinance would provide data to see if there is a problem.
This is not the first time that Boise elected officials have considered regulating the short-term rental industry. In 2019, former mayor David Bieter proposed much stricter regulations, which included the requirement for operators to live in their units. Bieter halted plans to introduce bylaws to city council after a backlash from groups such as Boise’s regional real estate agents.
McLean had said during her 2019 mayoral campaign that she would seek to regulate short-term rentals. She criticized Bieter, his opponent, when he withdrew from his plan.
Short-term rentals anger many Boiseans
As Treasure Valley continues to battle a massive shortage of affordable housing, some advocates have pointed to industry regulation as a way to free up new units for tenants and potential homeowners.
Communities across the country have tried to limit the number of short-term rentals, believing they are squeezing the housing market and driving up prices. This has led communities like Santa Fe, New Mexico and Breckenridge, Colorado to implement maximum number of short-term rentals allowed.
But while many other cities in Idaho – like Sandpoint and Rexburg – have regulations, Boise so far does not have one, making it one of the largest cities in the country with no rules on the industry.
There is very little public data on short-term rentals in Boise, but there could be over 1,000 scattered across town, according to AirDNA, a service that analyzes short-term rentals in different markets. Many are located in the northern and eastern extremities, neighborhoods close to the city center.
And there could be a growing interest in investment property in these neighborhoods. Ada County Appraiser Bob McQuade said over the past three months he has heard of more properties being purchased as investments.
Amy Allgeyer, president of the North End Neighborhood Association, is an architect who says she is seeing more and more clients building auxiliary housing units, or ADUs, on their properties. Typically, ancillary units were used as long-term rentals or office space, but an increasing number is being used as short-term rentals.
“I do twice as much ADU like I did three years ago, ”Allgeyer said. “The Airbnb thing isn’t new, but it seems like it took a while to hit Boise, and I’m seeing more and more of it.”
Would the regulations violate the Idaho state code?
But one question has been a sticking point in attempts to regulate the short-term rental industry: How legal is it in Idaho?
An Idaho law of 2017 prohibits cities and counties from prohibiting short-term rentals in their jurisdictions, except in cases where public health and safety is affected. Council member Patrick Bageant interprets this to mean that even requiring a license could limit the number of short-term rentals, in violation of the law.
“Anything you do that specifically targets short-term rentals will have the effect of regulating the short-term rental market,” Bageant said over the phone. “I don’t think the evidence is as clear as the community’s perception is that short-term rentals cause damage.”
Not everyone agrees. Clegg said the regulations would help address safety concerns, such as ensuring there are fire alarms and smoke detectors, and therefore are permitted by law.
Rural Idaho towns begin to implement rules
Boise isn’t the only city in Idaho having this debate. Ketchum City Council is also consider a prescription which would require short-term rental units to have an annual permit with the city. Additionally, residential areas could only have one short-term rental per plot and would be limited to a two-night stay.
Ketchum’s proposed prescription received backlash from some owners and the Idaho Association of Realtors. An association lawyer emailed the city on Dec. 6 saying the order would effectively ban certain short-term rentals in violation of Idaho law.
“Targeting a property simply because of its use as a short-term rental rather than for health and safety concerns is precisely what (Idaho law) seeks to prevent,” said Jason Risch, the attorney. , in the email.
But Ketchum City Administrator Jade Riley said Idaho law also allows cities to require business licenses from any industry within their jurisdiction and these rules protect the safety of residents. and guests, while ensuring owners pay their required taxes.
“What we put in place is pretty standard in the industry,” Riley said. “We just want to have better data and a better sense of comfort that people pay their taxes. “
Clegg said she has yet to receive a communication from a real estate agent association about a proposed order in Boise.
How Boise City Council will vote on a short-term rental order is unclear, but unanimous approval is unlikely. Bageant said he supports private property rights and would need more evidence to support the regulations.
“I think (…) that the city council has no business going into my house and asking for my documents,” he said.
When asked if she had the votes to pass the ordinance, Clegg said she didn’t know.