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Boise City Council candidates weigh in on short-term rental licensing

Some people love short-term rentals, other people hate them.

The question of how to address vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods through services like Airbnb and VRBO, is splitting Boiseans as the housing market tightens in the Treasure Valley. BoiseDev asked the candidates for Boise City Council what their thoughts were on licensing short-term rentals after a proposal from Mayor Lauren McLean got a mixed reception earlier this month.

The candidates are listed by district in alphabetical order and their responses are in their own written responses, with the exception of Steve Madden who talked with BoiseDev over the phone.

District 1

Laura Metzler: “I believe that a property owner has the right to use his property as a short-term rental. In researching short-term rentals, I was surprised to find that a new and rather large townhouse complex in my district that I thought was built to address the housing shortage has at least three short-term rental units. It would be an interesting study to find out how many short-term rentals exist in Boise, how many are owned by out-of-state investors or developers, and the impact, if any, on affordable housing. That information can only come by way of licensing. I have heard of situations where short-term rentals have been used for illegal activity. That is most likely why Idaho law grants a city the power to regulate short-term rentals to protect the integrity of residential neighborhoods, and safeguard the public.”

Luci Willits: “I am concerned about using licensing/registration short-term rentals as a way to gather data, as was presented to Council members. It seems onerous and overly burdensome for private property owners. My preference would be to find other ways to quantify any potential issues through stakeholder groups, law enforcement reports, and publicly available information. The good news is this idea was presented in a work session and there are several steps to go before the Council votes on a final proposal.”

District 3

City Council President Pro Tem Lisa Sanchez: “During a recent work session of the Boise City Council, plans for an ordinance to register short term rentals was presented by staff. I asked that they do more community engagement to determine from residents how they are being affected by the growing number of short term rentals, including the owners and the surrounding neighborhoods. I do believe that our precious long-term rental housing stock should be preserved, and short term rentals limit needed housing, especially for the working poor. I also know that short-term rentals also serve a variety of needs for our community for families in transition, vacationing, and long-term medical caretakers. This is a relatively new housing model that we need to learn more about. Based on that discovery through community outreach and engagement, I would support a registration ordinance that includes a fee.”

Maria Santa Cruz-Cernik: “My answer would be NO. There has not been sufficient evidence to warrant any over sight of these AirBnB’s doing damage to adjacent houses. Most owners have strict rules about partying and or damages. (Where did they come with this?) To gather how many of these AirBnB’s exist in Boise is easy enough by looking on the website itself. Address and Contact information is listed on the website and can be transferred into City Halls data base, some how some way. This will allow a 911 call with an address that is listed as an AirBnB, notify not only the police but simultaneously notify the owners. Or a quick call to the Owners asking if it was they that called for assistance or not, killing two birds with one stone. The Owners now know that there was an Emergency at their house. Maybe this courtesy call could be a Paid Service should the owner want it? (this is how you get more revenue, charge for service that people could use, not in fees) It could save a lot of hassle getting people to actually send in the information as to whether or not they have an AirBnB. We have technology, they can figure out who owns one. Or maybe they just need me to come up with a better idea? The $80 fee is just another means to tap into the earnings of our citizens. They are already paying taxes. Registering and paying a fee for a license will give the city more say in regulating things. Any kind of government in business is too much as it is. No to fees for owners. It’s the owners responsibility. Leave it alone.”

Greg MacMillan and Nicholas Domeny did not respond to an email asking their stance on this issue.

District 5

Katie Fite: “We have an affordable housing crisis for goodness sake. I applaud the Mayor for wanting data on Air B and Bs. Let’s move forward with real data. Insurance should be the property owner’s decision.”

Crispin Gravatt: “I do support the licensing of short-term rentals. I am a researcher by trade, and I want to make sure we have enough information to make effective decisions. We do not currently have a clear picture of how short-term rentals are impacting our housing inventory, and in turn, the affordability of housing in Boise. A first step to learning more is taking inventory of current short-term rentals to better understand their impact on our housing affordability. This should include not only a count of how many STRs there are, but how they are used through surveys sent to owners and their renters. Next would be requiring registration of these rentals so the city and neighborhoods can track the impact they bring in terms of economic development, housing affordability, and traffic and public safety.”

Steve Madden: “One of the first questions I have, is there licensing and regulations and information gathering on long-term rental property owners and apartment buildings? I kind of get the idea that short-term rental people are being singled out for some reason and I am not quite sure why. If there isn’t the same scrutiny and regulatory behavior on long term rentals, say if someone has a fourplex or an apartment complex with eight units in it, is the city involved in licensing and regulations for those folks or are those folks left on their own as landlords and commercial business owners because they have an income-generating property? If they’re not, it seems like there’s a bias there. With The information I have about that, I would have to vote against it until I have more info.”

City Council Member Holli Woodings: “Before we look to license short-term rentals in Boise, which is a form of regulation, I’d like to first understand how many STRs we have, where they are, and who owns them in our city. I believe there’s a way to get this inventory, for example, all STRs pay taxes through their rental platforms and as such would be registered with the Idaho State Tax Commission. The assessor’s office has parcel-level information on ownership. And there is a lot to be learned from the rental sites themselves. When this information is available then we will have non-anecdotal information on whether we add regulation like licensure.”

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Margaret Carmel - BoiseDev Sr. Reporter
Margaret Carmel is a BoiseDev reporter focused on the City of Boise, housing, homelessness and growth. Contact her at margaret@boisedev.com or by phone at (757)705-8066.

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