Vail Daily letter: Are rent by owner units really causing problems in Vail?
June 23, 2017
A recent letter to the editor from Leonard Bloom of Vail references a press release from the town of Vail on the Rent by Owner business. The release states that 1,422 businesses are operating without a license.
This is not true and a separate study conducted proves it.
What is true is that 1,422 advertisements for rental units ran without having a town business license included.
This does not mean that the Rent By Owner operators do not have a license. It does not mean that they are not paying sales tax. It does not mean that there are 1,422 "non-compliant" short-term rentals available in Vail. It certainly does not mean that "thousands of lost long-term rentals" have been caused by the Rent By Owner industry.
In most cases, it only means that the operator did not list the number in their ad. According to the majority of the "non-compliant" operators contacted, they were unaware of the requirement to publish the number, even though they have the license and have paid sales tax for years.
According to the authors of the study sited in the town release, this "1,422" number is suspect. They readily admitted that trying to get an accurate number of non-compliant short-term properties is like playing "pin the tail on the donkey" and "Rubik's cube."
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One can only wonder what the real number is if an attempt to clarify the listings occurred during the counting process. By some estimations, the true number is only a few hundred at best.
The contention that Rent By Owner is hurting our long-term rental base is anecdotal at best. While there is certainly some impact, no one really knows to what extent. This is in part due to the town not having a comprehensive inventory of rentals, both long- and short-term, within its borders.
The finance director for the town of Breckenridge, which is a pioneer in regulating short-term rentals, stated in a Denver Post article that, while it might make sense to draw the conclusion that short-term rentals are hurting the employee housing market, there is not enough data to support the notion. Breckenridge does not believe that there are many homeowners switching form long term to short-term rentals. Why would Vail be any different?
Now that the Chamonix project is behind us, Vail's leaders need to focus on long-term/seasonal/employee housing.
The Vail Community Development department should be encouraged to help developers think outside of the proverbial box.
We need to explore all options that could include building on top of the Post Office and Safeway. Town hall needs to be relocated so that its prime location can be used for an employee housing (and parking) project.
We need to mandate that the new parking structure being proposed for Red Sandstone Elementary include rental housing now, for a problem that exists and will exist, instead of holding off in case we "need to expand our portfolio" with additions to the school sometime in the future.
There are no easy answers for this complex problem, but blaming it on the Rent By Owner market is not part of the solution. If anything, Rent By Owner can become a source of revenue for employee housing by earmarking the sales tax collected for the Vail Housing Authority.
Unfortunately, most people in Vail are only reading about the bad Rent By Owner experiences. These are really experiences with bad neighbors and the Rent By Owner component is only incidental.
I encourage anyone interested in getting a better and balanced view of the situation to visit the Airbnb website and search for Vail rentals. You will find that most hosts are doing an excellent job with our guests and representing Vail.
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