Outlaw Airbnbs is given a reprieve of at least a year. Robert Gehrke explains why.

An effort to help cities regulate short-term rentals faced opposition in the general session of the Legislative Assembly this year.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Gehrke.

Owners of illegal short-term rentals — like places rented for a few nights on Airbnb or VRBO — needn’t worry about a major crackdown, at least for another year.

I wrote recently how a major piece of affordable housing legislation this year would have removed a provision that ties cities’ hands when it comes to enforcing zoning restrictions or business license requirements.

Many cities already restrict where these short-term rentals can operate or require landlords to have a business license. But in 2017, the legislature banned cities from simply going to a website — say an Airbnb or VRBO site — and finding out if units are operating illegally.

They did so at a time when such short-term rentals were exploding statewide and the shortage of permanent housing has caused rental prices to skyrocket, rising more than 10% in the last year alone, according to a study. published last week by the Kem Gardner Political Institute.

This year’s House Bill 462 sought to remove the restriction on cities and let them enforce the ordinances they had put in place, perhaps easing some pressure on the rental market. The Gardner Institute estimates that there are about 20,000 homes offered for short-term rental in the state and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Waldrip, R-Eden, estimates that a third of them are illegal.

If you look at the ads in Salt Lake City, where these short-term rentals are generally only prohibited east of State Street and in large parts of Poplar Grove, Glendale, and Rose Park, I guess the percentage of illegal exploitation is much higher.

Predictably, Waldrip received huge backlash from landowners and property rights groups and agreed to strip the language of the bill before passage, provided all parties agreed. to try to find a balanced solution by next year’s general session.

It is not impossible that the city applies. Two weeks ago, a city appeals officer ruled that two short-term rentals in Salt Lake City were operating illegally, but it took a city law enforcement official to visit the property, record license plates, and interview neighbors and guests staying at the property. So, operational, it’s an inconvenient process.

This leads some regions to become more aggressive. Washington County voted last October to prohibit all non-owner occupied short-term rentals and to impose size restrictions in unincorporated parts of the county.

When we spoke, Waldrip also said he took issue with what I wrote about another part of his bill, a provision that would require Summit County to approve a proposed mixed-use development near Kimball Junction which would have 1,100 units, as well as a large commercial and retail component.

In December, some 900 residents turned out in person and remotely to oppose the project due to concerns about traffic at the congested Interstate 80 intersection and local service charges. An opponent of the plan, Mitch Solomon, said residents were “blindsided” by the action of the Legislative Assembly and County Councilor Malena Stevens said “this is not democracy”.

Waldrip said he wanted the language released sooner — it came out the second-to-last night of the session — but Summit County was consulted about the provision.

“It was done in good faith and it was done with what I believe was appropriate stakeholder input,” he said. Ultimately, he said, opponents are strongly opposed to the project and nothing can be done to appease them, but the state must solve its housing problem.

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