Answers to four questions about short-term rentals in Burlington

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If Burlington’s efforts to regulate short-term rentals were a symphony, Monday could mark the epic culmination of the latest movement.

City councilors are voting on a proposal Monday night that would put a damper on the industry’s ability to grow. It comes after two and a half years of debate over how to balance the economic value of properties – which, through sites such as Airbnb and Vrbo, host guests for up to a month – with their potential. to consume the offer of the region. housing.

The board unanimously agrees on certain basic principles. They all agree that the housing crisis in Burlington has reached a crescendo, as the city struggles with a vacancy rate below 1%. They also agree that short-term rentals should be required to register with the city, which is not explicitly stated in Burlington’s ordinances.

Beyond that, the 12-member council — which is split evenly between progressives and non-progressives — disagrees on how harshly the state’s largest city should crack down on a burgeoning method of travel accommodation.

The proposal before them on Monday is largely identical to the one councilors rejected in March. Around that time, the body passed a more restrictive ordinance that would have banned nearly all short-term rentals in the city, but Democratic Mayor Miro Weinberger vetoed the resolution.

Ahead of the showdown, VTDigger compiled a list of questions and answers about the issue.

What is the proposal that the city council must vote on?

Dave Hartnett listens as the Burlington City Council hear public comment on the city’s short-term rental regulations on Monday, December 20, 2021. Photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

The proposed order would require that short-term rentals exist in the host’s primary residence, referred to as owner-occupied short-term rentals, with some exceptions.

An exception on which all the advisers agree: if someone owns a building in addition to his main residence with several residential units, he can rent a unit for short-term rental if he rents another unit in the same building to someone who is federally eligible. or public housing assistance.

But the proposal on the table Monday night includes additional exemptions that have proven more controversial.

Under the proposal, which was presented by Councilor Sarah Carpenter, D-Ward 4, the same rules apply, but a landlord can also get an exception if the long-term rental unit meets the standards of ” the city’s inclusionary zoning, which sit above the level of government rent assistance, but below the market rate. Currently, a single person earning less than $67,200 per year is eligible for an inclusion zoning unit.

Carpenter’s proposal also allows “accessible housing” – housing built on a landlord’s property – to be rented out on a short-term basis, even if the landlord does not live in the unit.

Additionally, the order before city councilors on Monday would charge short-term rental hosts a 9% tax on each transaction. This money would go to the city’s Housing Trust Fund, which helps fund the development of affordable housing.

Under both proposals, someone could rent out their primary residence as a short-term rental of an entire unit (renting an entire unit instead of a single bedroom in a larger house, for example) if they is out of town, or a residential unit that is considered “seasonal” by the city assessor.

How many short-term rentals are there in Burlington?

The number of short-term rentals in Burlington has fluctuated over the years, but they now make up about 1% of the city’s housing stock.

At their peak in 2019, there were over 400 properties in the city. They fell to about 250 late last year but have since added nearly 60 listings, according to a memo from city planner Meagan Tuttle.

According to data from Tuttle, 81% of the city’s short-term rentals are whole units, which — unless they’re owner-occupied, secondary suites, or exist in a building where the host owns affordable housing – would become illegal if Monday’s order went into effect.

Are there any rules currently in place governing short-term rentals in Burlington?

Short-term rentals in Burlington now make up about 1% of the city’s housing stock.

Yes.

Currently, Burlington’s zoning rules reserve a place for “bed and breakfasts,” which must be owner-occupied in order to receive a permit.

Once the hosts of a short-term rental receive a license to operate as bed and breakfasts, they can keep it. This would remain the case even if the city council banned all short-term rentals from operating in the city. But if the council passes regulations that would allow certain short-term rentals of entire units, hosts could choose to follow those rules instead and not use their bed and breakfast permit.

How would Burlington’s short-term rental ordinance be enforced?

The city’s Permits and Inspections Department would be responsible for enforcing a short-term rental ordinance, just as it is responsible for enforcing other elements of Burlington’s housing code.

To help them track down noncompliant hosts, the department would contract with a company that tracks short-term rental listings online and cross-checks them with the city’s registry.

The city already receives information about its short-term rental industry free of charge, through a company called Granicus.

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