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Early results from Boise short-term rental ordinance points to low compliance


In the first month and a half after Boise passed its new ordinance requiring short-term rentals to be licensed, less than 100 property owners filed paperwork with the city. 

Early data obtained through a public records request by BoiseDev shows 92 short-term rentals, like Airbnb or VRBO, have headed to city hall for a license since the ordinance went into effect at the beginning of May. Deputy City Clerk Jaime Heinzerling said she knows this figure is far below what vacation rentals are expected to be out there, and a new round of education on the initiative should begin soon. 

She said earlier this summer there were another 20 or 30 rentals whose licenses are still pending due to missing paperwork, but once those come in the city will start a big push to license the other properties up. 

“The next step is we would go out and start looking at what’s listed out there and again do outreach,” she said. “Our goal is to educate people and gain compliance, not a heavy-handed approach, but going out, reaching out and educating again.”

Heinzerling said beyond this education push the city will be “complaint driven” and investigate properties for not being licensed if complaints are levied against them from neighbors or visitors. 

This ordinance and the issue of short-term rentals in general divided Boise City Council members, and residents of the city over the past year. Supporters of short-term rentals said regulations would heavily impact local property owners using the income to help survive the housing crisis themselves. Other residents, and Mayor Lauren McLean, say the ordinance was necessary to gather data about how many Airbnbs the city has, if they’re primarily owned by out-of-state investors of locals and ensure the city can reach the owners in case of an emergency. 

AirDna, a website that provides data on short-term rental markets to potential investors, estimates there were 1,191 active short-term rental listings in Boise earlier this year. This is up 52% from 786 the company estimated in June of last year. 

What does the data tell us?

The data set is small, but it points to some early trends in who owns short-term rentals in Boise and how they’re operated. 

Of the licensed listings, only 13 are owned solely by out-of-state owners, but Heinzerling said there are several properties with multiple owners, both in and out of state that can muddle the data. Sixteen of the properties are owner-occupied and 24 have the owner stay on the premise while guests are staying there. 

Two-thirds of the listings are for single-family homes and another 13 are for condos or townhomes. There are also thirteen accessory dwelling units, or mother-in-law cottages, licensed as Airbnbs, eleven duplexes and one bedroom. Four other short-term rentals are listed simply as “other, single-family home.”

The most short-term rentals owned by a single person is four, according to the city’s spreadsheet. There are a few other property owners with three short-term rentals, but the majority of the licenses are for one or two properties registered to one owner. 

Should the city hire a firm to ensure compliance?

Chris Runyan, the organizer behind the group Protect Boise Neighborhoods that fought for the licensing ordinance, is disappointed by the low number of license holders early in the process. 

He said the city should consider hiring a third party, like New Orleans-based company Granicus, to work on outreach and ensure compliance. Runyan said seeing less than 10% compliance with the new ordinance was a letdown. 

“Unfortunately, either people don’t know (getting licensed is) required or they choose not to and it’s a benefit to have the city hire an outside company to help get this going off the ground where (the company) manages it and helps to get people on the licensing program so that it pays for itself so we’re not paying the city to track down these people on these properties,” Runyan said. 

When hearing about the findings from the preliminary licensing data, Runyan said seeing the small percentage of homeowners who live at their listings confirms a lot of what people assumed about short-term rentals in the city. He also wondered about the low number of out-of-state owners reflected in the license data, which he thinks could be due to local owners being aware of the rule and absentee out-of-state owners unaware of it. 

“The issue is no one wants to impact someone living in their home and using short-term rentals to make money to stay in their home,” Runyan said. “No one wants to touch that with a ten-foot pole. But once people find out the majority of these properties are investment properties that are solely used for short-term rentals, it becomes more uncomfortable because that can cause a real disruption to the neighborhood.”

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

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