It has been discussed that there aren’t a significant number of airbnbs that would be converted to long term rentals if taken out of airbnb service. Many owners may just leave them vacant. It’s worth discussing the economic input that airbnbs make to the local economy – but there do need to be more options for affordable housing.
Bozeman City Commission takes aim at short-term rentals
By Nora Shelly Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer Aug 11, 2022
Bozeman city commissioners discussed increasing the city’s regulations of short-term vacation rentals during a meeting this week.
Commissioners said they support stepping up the city’s enforcement of its existing regulations on short-term rentals and some seemed inclined to support limiting certain types of these rentals.
Bozeman allows short-term rentals like those posted on VRBO or Airbnb to operate in the city, but requires units to be registered with the city and prohibits homes in residential zoning districts from being used solely as short-term rentals.The commission approved those regulations in 2017 and held a work session Tuesday to discuss further regulation options. Work sessions are set up for commissioners to give broad policy input to city staff and don’t include formal votes.
A lot has changed in the last five years: City Commissioner Christopher Coburn, who was not on the commission in 2017, asked for clarification to confirm that at that point, regulations on short-term rentals were fueled by concerns over their impact on neighborhood character rather than housing stock.
“Our context now is very different, because I think the concerns we’re hearing now from short-term rentals aren’t necessarily about it’s changing the feel of our community, but it’s actually making it so that people who want to live here, who have lived here, can no longer live here,” Coburn said.
Renata Munfrada, the city’s community housing program coordinator, said Bozeman has 163 registered short-term rentals, but that the software company the city uses shows 463 active rentals. She noted some units are listed on multiple platforms, which could skew that number.The city is planning to do an audit of its data on short-term rentals, Munfrada said.A 2021 study found that Gallatin County had 2,524 short-term rentals operating then or were at some point in the previous year, though Munfrada said Big Sky and West Yellowstone make up a lot of that number.
Munfrada said it’s hard to say what increased regulation of short-term rentals will mean for the overall housing market.“Short-term rental regulation may lead to some housing opening up for our local workforce, but that doesn’t mean that that housing is going to be affordable,” Munfrada said.
All commissioners said they would like the city to look into ways to beef up enforcement of the regulations to enhance compliance.
City Manager Jeff Mihelich said the city’s enforcement is reliant on complaints filed by residents who suspect there is an unregistered short-term rental.“People are pretty creative in their ways of hiding their short term rental,” Mihelich said. “If we have enhanced compliance with the tools that I’ve mentioned before, I’m pretty confident you will see some of the short-term rentals that are on the market but are unregistered no longer be short-term rentals because they don’t want to follow the rules.”
The city classifies short-term rentals in three categories: units that are owner-occupied during the rental period, owner-occupied units where the owner is not present while it’s being rented, and units that are not owner-occupied and used solely for short-term rentals.
Several commissioners said they’d be interested in limiting the number of short-term rentals that fall into the last category, and Mayor Cyndy Andrus said she would support completely eliminating that set of short-term rentals.Commissioners were less interested in limiting short-term rentals in different zoning types. Deputy Mayor Terry Cunningham said a rise in more ambiguous zoning types like residential-emphasis mixed use zoning could make that path difficult.
“I think our goal should be to make it harder to have short-term rentals because I think the environment that we’re in is very different than what it was five years ago, and the reality on the ground is that people are being displaced,” Coburn said.