My interest in the city of Boise’s proposed policy on short-term rentals is more than just academic or philosophical.
As a resident of Boise’s West End (the West End is the best end), I have a personal perspective on the matter that’s much more concrete and real life.
Boise Mayor Dave Bieter this month proposed four new policies regulating short-term rentals. The policies, if approved by City Council, would require all new short-term rental units to be approved by the city through an application process; require owners of short-term rental units to live on site; restrict the number of short-term rentals to one unit per taxable residential property; require short-term rental properties to comply with the city’s development code standards, including but not limited to parking, setbacks and open space.
A couple of years ago, someone bought the house on the corner of our street, just three houses down from our house.
At first, it seemed like they were doing some work on the house and that they were living there. Then, we started noticing that different cars from different states were parked outside the house on a weekly basis. We saw license plates from Oregon, Texas, Alabama, California and more. We figured the new owners were renting out the house or at least rooms in the house as a short-term rental, such as through Airbnb. We weren’t thrilled, but it wasn’t really a problem.
But then we noticed that the people who owned the house were there less and less often, to the point that we couldn’t remember the last time we had seen them, which suggested to us that the house had now become a full-time, short-term rental with temporary occupants, and not actually the primary residence of the owners.
Now, of course, there are many houses in our neighborhood that are rentals, but they are mostly full-time residents who have a vested interest in the neighborhood where they live and the house in which they live. Not so for people who are just staying for a couple of days or a week.
Indeed, the house on our block fell into disrepair. The front lawn died. The backyard became a mess of discarded wood pallets and overgrown weeds.
The property had become an eyesore. None of this constituted something for which we could call the city and complain about, but the issues nonetheless detracted from the neighborhood.
I’m happy to report that the house has since been sold to new owners who now live there full time. The front lawn has been replanted and is being maintained, and the backyard has been cleaned up and is beautiful now.
I’m a firm believer in the notion of “pride of ownership,” but that pride of ownership generally pertains to a property when the owner is present. It’s because the owner sees problems every day, and any problems that arise, whether it’s a dead lawn, broken water line, chipping paint or broken windows, negatively affect the life of the owner. It’s also why long-term rental properties have a better chance of being maintained; it’s because the people who live there have to live with any problems and will complain to the owner to get them fixed.
Not so with a short-term rental. The person staying for a couple of days doesn’t care whether the lawn dies. They’ll be gone in a couple of days, so it’s not their problem.
I am leery of trying to stop a problem before it becomes a problem, particularly when it comes to instituting a new law or city ordinance. And I’m sensitive to the private property rights argument. But this, to me, sounds like a decent compromise that still lets private property owners rent out their houses on a short-term basis, and protects the rights of neighboring property owners from having a blighted property in their neighborhood.
BEHIND OUR REPORTING
What is this column all about?
This column shares the personal opinions of Idaho Statesman opinion editor Scott McIntosh on current issues in the Treasure Valley, in Idaho and nationally. It represents one person’s opinion and is intended to spur a conversation and solicit others’ opinions. It is intended to be part of an ongoing civil discussion with the ultimate goal of providing solutions to community problems and making this a better place to live, work and play. Readers are encouraged to express their thoughts by submitting a letter to the editor. Click on “Submit a letter or opinion” at idahostatesman.com/opinion.