Vail survey: Short-term rentals don’t have a big impact

Not many registered units could be long-term rentals

A recent study shows Vail’s population has grown somewhat in the past seven years. Meanwhile, the town has lost population in the 18-34 age group.
Economic & Planning Systems/courtesy image

This story has been corrected regarding the number of registered voters in Vail. The story has also been corrected to reflect home sales between $400,000 and $900,000.

A lot of people think short-term rentals are destroying Vail and other resort towns. That isn’t exactly true.

The Vail Town Council Tuesday heard a lengthy presentation about short-term rentals in town. The data included where short-term units are and who owns them. Most of the town’s short-term rental registrations — 62% — are in or near the town’s resort villages. The remainder are in and near the town’s more residential areas.

The information is from a roughly $50,000 study conducted by Economic & Planning Systems and RRC Associates, two firms that have long done consulting work for the town.

And there’s a lot of information to digest, for instance:

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  • There are 7,359 total residential units in town.
  • Of those, 2,454 are registered as short-term rentals in town.
  • Using mailing addresses in tax records, the study found that 77% of registered short-term units are owned by people outside of Eagle County.
  • Six homes in the town’s residential districts valued between $400,000 and $900,000 that sold in 2021 registered as short-term rentals.

That last figure doesn’t seem like much, although town officials believe there are many more short-term rentals registered in that price range. Still, Andrew Knudtsen of Economic and Planning Systems acknowledged that short-term rentals overall aren’t having a big effect on long-term rentals in town.

But Council member Jen Mason noted that even six units have an impact.

“That’s six families that don’t live here any more,” Mason said.

And Vail is experiencing a decline in the population of younger people.

Registered voters between the ages of 18 and 34 in 2014 represented 40% of all registered voters in town. The percentage had shrunk to 34% by 2021. Meanwhile town voters age 75 and older increased during the same period, from 4% to 8% of the town’s electorate.

Council members will have to consider all that data, and more, as town officials work to craft restrictions, regulations and fees, or both.

Other resort communities have taken various steps to restrict short-term rentals. Breckenridge has capped short-term rentals at a maximum of 2,200 units. No new licenses will be issued unless the total drops below the maximum.

Crested Butte has imposed a moratorium on new short-term registrations for non-primary residences until at least July of this year.

Resorts also impose varying levels of fees. Again, Breckenridge appears to have imposed the highest fees, currently $400 per bedroom, rising in 2023 to $756 per bedroom.

Aspen currently charges $150 for a business license. Vail also charges just an administrative fee. But Town Manager Scott Robson noted that the current fees don’t cover the town’s costs in administering the program.

But what’s right for Vail?

“How do we figure out a combination of policies unique to Vail?” Knudtsen asked, adding that Vail needs to find a regulatory and fee system almost independently of what’s going on in other areas.

Council member Kevin Foley said however the town’s regulations and fees shake out, enforcing the rules is essential.

“If there are problems, we need to know about it, Foley said, adding that owners with multiple violations shouldn’t be allowed to license their units for short-term use.

Knudtsen noted that the town’s current policy is four violation citations. Perhaps that could be reduced to three citations.

Whatever form the town’s regulations take, Mayor Kim Langmaid said the town needs to find the right system, adding that regulations have to recognize that “local housing is a priority of ours.”

By the numbers

60%: Number of Vail housing units used for “seasonal, recreational or occasional use.”

31%: Units registered with the town as short term rentals.

22%: Owner-occupied units.

9%: Renter occupied units.

10.6%: Increase between 2014 and 2021 in registered voters.

Source: Economic & Planning Systems, RRC Associates.

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