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Avon mulls what to do about short-term rentals

As part of its Community Housing Plan, Town Council is evaluating several methods of addressing short-term rentals, including a moratorium

Avon is taking a hard look at short-term rentals in the town and their possible adverse affect on the availability of residential housing rental opportunities.
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As Avon — like many local municipalities — attempts to address housing affordability and challenges within the community, it is revising its Community Housing Plan. And as part of this revision, it is taking a hard look at short-term rentals in the town and their possible adverse affect on the availability of residential housing rental opportunities.

The Community Housing Plan was last published in 2018 as a way to address housing challenges in Avon. Specifically, the two main housing goals were identified to achieve a diverse range of housing densities, styles and types to serve the whole community as well as provide a regional attainable housing program for local working families.

Now, the town is revisiting the plan both to reflect the current status of housing — with updated rental prices and inventory concerns — as well as offer up new solutions.



Prioritizing short-term rentals

As part of its enhanced focus on short-term rentals, the town of Avon will revisit its current short-term rental overlay districts, pictured here.
Town of Avon/Courtesy Photo

The Town Council offered its first revisions to the plan in early October. And after facing a public hearing at the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, it returned to council on Oct. 12 to face its first reading before it is adopted.

One of the major areas of revision, and growing concern among council members, is the increasing prevalence of short-term rentals.



In urging the Town Council to do something about short-term rentals at the Oct. 12 meeting, Council member Lindsay Hardy said these rentals were “extracting wealth from these units but not giving it back to the community,” and adding that the growth of these units is “pushing people out.”

Since council last saw the plan, town staff added a section on short-term rentals to the plan, adding “some meat to the bone,” said Matt Pielsticker, the town’s planning director. This added to the plan that “a top priority is to evaluate Short Term Rentals and consider revisions to the existing Short Term Rental regulations.”

The proposed plan stipulates that the town will:

  • Look at properties that have traditionally hosted short-term rentals and those that have not;
  • Reconsider the existing boundaries of the town’s short-term rental overlay district;
  • Consider adding a second-tier to licenses for owner-occupied short-term rentals to “defray housing costs;”
  • Consider adding standards for operation and maintenance of these rental units; and
  • Perform a review of what other mountain communities are doing with short-term rental regulations.

Council member Amy Phillips said that the council, and plan, needs more information about the properties migrating from traditionally long-term rental properties to short-term rental properties.

“[We need to] get a handle on what properties are migrating to short-term rentals,” she said. “I do know, just as a gut instinct, that Sunridge and LiftView are having migration issues — that there are more properties migrating over to short-term rentals, which is part of the reason why prices over there are now up over $500,000.”

Phillips added the town should reward owners that are following the reverse trend.

This is something that other mountain communities have begun to implement. Last week, Summit County and the town of Breckenridge started a program to pay property owners — up to $24,000 depending on the lease — who remove their properties from short-term rental sites and put them up for long-term leases for local workforce instead. In August, Winter Park passed something similar, offering cash to owners who transition their properties.

Hardy expressed her support for re-evaluating where short-term rentals are allowed and evaluating owner-occupied short-term rentals as an affordable housing mechanism.

The town staff, ahead of the council meeting, had done some trend research regarding the licenses for short-term rentals, but Town Manager Eric Heil said there were “more layers” to the numbers given. This included details such as to whether the licenses are front desk licenses, how many have not been renewed, the number of bedrooms per license, conversion of rentals and more.

The ‘M Word’

As part of the discussion on what to do about short-term rentals, council member Tamra Underwood noted that these discussions must include a discussion on placing a moratorium. She noted that the plan should include that the town will discuss adding potential limits on short-term rental licenses.

“I’m not saying that tonight there should be a moratorium on STR licenses so that some of these affordable properties don’t fall into STR licenses, but that’s a discussion that we need to have, and we need to have it in the public,” Underwood said.

After her statement, Pielsticker jokingly told Underwood she said the “M word” but agreed it was a good idea to “plant the seed that we’re going to talk about it” in the plan.

This was something that several other council members also expressed support over debating at a future date.

“I just want to say that I do support Tamra in the ‘M Word’ and am all about bringing that up later and have no problem bringing it to the forefront and discussing it,” said council member RJ Andrade.

Council member Chico Thuon also agreed and said that “the Big M word, it has to come along at some point in order to get a grip” on housing.

Should Avon move forward with the discussion and implementation of a moratorium, it certainly wouldn’t be the first mountain community to do so. Crested Butte recently approved a 12-month moratorium on accepting or processing applications and licenses for short-term rentals as it gets a grip on community housing. Steamboat Springs also suspended new applications for 90 days in June. Vail considered one in July but ultimately rejected the proposal.

Whatever the town does, Underwood urged that the town needs to be careful not to push short-term rentals “underground” and to the “black market” with whatever regulations are imposed.

Avon Town Council is expected to review the next iteration of the Community Housing Plan as a public hearing at its next meeting on Oct. 26.

And as the plan makes short-term rentals a “top priority,” Heil said that town staff is planning to gather more information about short-term rentals in the town — as well as what other mountain communities are doing — and provide a report to council in January. The idea being that this report would allow council to make any policy changes.


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