Big Idaho Potato becomes an Airbnb
New short-term rentals, such as those on Airbnb, would be limited under a new proposal from Boise Mayor David Bieter.
Short-term rentals, meaning any rental of a room, living space or accessory dwelling unit for less than 30 consecutive days, would be subject to several new restrictions.
Owners would have to apply to the city for the rental and would be required to live on-site. They could have only one rental unit “per taxable residential property,” meaning that someone couldn’t rent out more than one space in a house. All rental properties would have to comply with the city’s development code on parking, open space and other requirements.
In a news release Thursday, Bieter said his proposed ordinance would benefit housing affordability in the city.
“And it comes with the added benefit of giving us another tool to preserve local neighborhoods,” Bieter said. “With these policies, we can better guide how short-term rentals operate so that their impact on neighborhoods and housing affordability is minimal.”
The ordinance would apply only to new short-term rentals. Existing ones would be grandfathered.
Boise has no regulations in place for short-term rentals. Idaho law stops cities from prohibiting short-term rentals outright, but it grants a city power to regulate them “as it deems necessary to safeguard the public health, safety and general welfare in order to protect the integrity of residential neighborhoods.”
Airbnb argues that its service allows families to make money from their houses.
“Airbnb helps Boise families turn what is typically their greatest expense — their housing — into a tool to help offset rising housing costs and infuses visitor spending to neighborhoods that haven’t typically benefited from tourism,” Laura Rillos, a spokeswoman for Airbnb, said in a email. “We are reviewing this ordinance, and remain committed to working with Boise leaders to find a solution that protects housing and addresses quality of life concerns while preserving the economic opportunity of short-term rentals.”
As Boise has grown, so too has the prevalence of Airbnbs. Since 2016, the number of short-term rentals in Boise has increased from 336 to 1,183, according to data from AirDNA, a short-term rental analytics company.
A search of Airbnb shows hundreds of Boise spaces available for rent on the site, from “spacious guest rooms” to “cozy basement apartments.” Similar sites, including VRBO and Vacasa, show potential renters dozens, if not hundreds, of other rental options.
Meanwhile, Boise renters are facing a shortage of available housing. The rental vacancy rate in the city dipped to 2% in 2018, compared with 8% in 2009.
Neighborhoods like the North End and Downtown are the most popular spots for Airbnbs. Two in five Boise listings are found there.
But neighbors worry that the rentals are creating holes in the fabric of their communities. Where houses once held neighbors invested in their communities, they’re now just temporary lodging for tourists.
The problem is not unique to Boise. Many cities have taken similar measures to limit the number of short-term rentals. New York and Portland implemented “one host, one home” policies that allow a host to list only one home on the site. Cities like San Francisco, Louisville and Boston require hosts to register their Airbnbs.
The new proposal addresses concerns of neighbors, the release said. It is inspired by the city’s Community Conversations on Growth as well as “a frequent discussion point” heard when the city earlier this year rolled back restrictions on accessory dwelling units, such as small backyard cottages or apartments above garages.
Bieter’s proposed plans are similar to platform points made by Lauren McLean, president of the Boise City Council and one of Bieter’s main challengers for the mayor’s office this November, in August. Talking in a Facebook Live video on August 23, McLean said that if elected mayor, she would introduce a licensing program for short-term rentals to “address the serious neighborhood issues” that come from them.
Boiseans can weigh in on the proposed ordinance via a feedback form available on the city’s website. The form will be open until Sept. 27. Once the ordinance is introduced, the City Council would hold a public hearing on it. The process to enact an ordinance typically takes four to six months.