With companies such as AirBNB and VRBO settling into communities around the world during the past decade, many townships are pushed to address issues arising from short-term rentals (STR). Carbondale trustees are scheduled to discuss just that during a public work session on Dec. 21.
While Carbondale officials have acknowledged that unfettered short-term rentals need to be reined in, the issue was recently given greater prominence by a newly-formed advocacy group, Community First Carbondale (CFC).
CFC is the brainchild of three full-time residents of Carbondale: Kevin Rayes, Shirley Powers and Ali O’Neal. Rayes works as a planner for the city of Aspen and previously worked in planning for Colorado Springs. His advocacy work with CFC is unrelated to his position with the city of Aspen. Still, Rayes has learned through experience that “planning is really political.”
Initially, CFC intended to petition enough signatures to get an initiative on the ballot by way of the people. However, once the group put the Town on notice they were informed that that may not be necessary.
Carbondale Mayor Dan Richardson said he conveyed to Rayes, “that in my opinion using a ballot initiative to create public policy is not constructive unless it’s an absolute last resort.” The mayor encouraged Rayes and CFC to work with the trustees to try and get something done. “Considering I only learned of their initiative a couple weeks ago and our board has been willing, and more recently eager to address the issue, I think we are very far from a last resort scenario,” added Richardson.
“We are no longer planning to push this to a vote, but rather hope to work with the board of trustees to get something approved,” Rayes told The Sopris Sun.
The group drafted a memo which they provided to the Town ahead of the Dec. 21 work session. In part, the memo says, “Homeowners and landlords who previously rented to long-term locals are now enticed to use a residential property as a STR or sell out to a company that will do the same.”
“We each have friends or family-members who have been pushed out of Town because of the lack of housing options available in the area,” the memo further declares, “and we believe STRs, and MTRs [medium-term rentals] are a contributing factor.”
CFC defines an MTR as “a property or dwelling unit that is rented for a period between 30 to 90 consecutive days.” In Carbondale, STRs are taxed the same as hotels for overnight stays of 30 days or less — any length beyond 30 days is exempt. Oftentimes, according to Rayes, people will opt to prolong their stay to 30 days to avoid paying the STR tax.
CFC recognizes a distinction between hotels (and other overnight lodgings) and STRs. Whereas a hotel room was initially intended for short-term stays, STR and MTR units are located within homes zoned as permanent residences and arguably remove a living space for a long-term resident. “When somebody stays in a hotel, they are not taking away housing from somebody else,” explained Rayes.
In their proposal, CFC acknowledges that STRs and MTRs can provide extra income for full-time residents. Therefore, the coalition proposes a permitting system for STRs and MTRs. Since the intention is to limit outside investors from gobbling up the housing market, CFC proposes that only owners who occupy a home full-time should be granted a STR permit. If a home is not occupied by a full-time resident, the owner would not be granted a STR permit. MTRs would be “allowed by right” for full-time occupying-owners to rent without having to obtain a permit, whereas a non-occupying-owner would be required to obtain a permit to rent out a space as a MTR.
How would the Town pay for enforcement of these regulations? CFC proposes that a 10% municipal tax should be imposed on permitted STRs and MTRs — specifying again that hotels would be exempt. A proposed tax increase, pursuant to TABOR, would ultimately go to the voters for approval.
“We studied the issue pretty thoroughly a couple years ago,” Mayor Richardson told The Sopris Sun, “but at that time it was more difficult to parse out the pros and the cons and non-owner-occupied STRs didn’t appear to be nearly as rampant as they appear to be now.”
Currently, AirBNB and VRBO pay a lump sum of the taxes it collects to the Town of Carbondale. Therefore, the town does not have recent data regarding the number of STR units.
Those interested in learning more about CFC can visit the coalition’s website at: www.communityfirstcarbondale.org
“To us, housing is not a commodity; housing is more of a human right,” concluded Rayes.