Scottsdale Airbnb shooting motivates opponents of short-term rentals
A shooting in Scottsdale at a short-term rental earlier this month has residents and elected officials doubling down on their opposition to Airbnb-style vacation rentals.
Mary Healey, who lives next door to where the shooting happened, said short-term rentals in the neighborhood were out of control. There are often loud parties at the property, she said, but the shooting was a next-level disturbance.
“That bullet could have gone through the garage, my bedroom and my head,” she said. “It’s pretty scary.”
The non-lethal shot occurred near McDowell Road and North Hayden Road at 4am on September 9. The victim was shot three times, according to the Scottsdale Police Department. Police later arrested two people in connection with the shooting.
Opposition to Airbnbs and other short-term rentals was already significant in Scottsdale and other parts of the Valley. Some residents and elected officials say they are making neighborhoods less safe and eating away at the housing supply the city desperately needs.
A shooting has only added fuel to the fire as community leaders prepare to consider new local restrictions on short-term rentals.
In a written statement provided to The Republic, Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega called the shooting “a tragic illustration of the problems that vacation homes pose to our neighborhoods,” adding that “the sense of safety in this neighborhood is shattered. “.
An Airbnb representative said the property listing was deactivated while the company investigated.
Short-term rental and security
Scottsdale has seen an explosion of Airbnbs, Vrbos and other short-term rental listings in recent years. The New York Times recently called the city a “The Bachelor Party Capital of the West”, partly due to the popularity of short-term rental homes where groups of friends can congregate.
Loud parties are a regular complaint to police, but safety concerns are not uncommon. Short-term rentals in the valley have been the scene of several shootings and other serious crimes, including an incident in 2020 where a teenager was shot at a house party.
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Public safety concerns related to short-term rentals are popping up across the country. A 2021 study from Northeastern University found that higher rates of short-term rental listings in Boston neighborhoods were linked to increased crime. That’s likely because converting housing units to short-term rentals “undermines a neighborhood’s social organization” and its natural ability to “thwart and deter crime,” according to the study.
Between July 1, 2021 and June 1, 2022, Scottsdale police were called nearly 800 times for short-term rentals, according to city data. And in the first six months of this year, about half of calls from harmful party police departments across the city were for short-term rentals. According to Scottsdale Police, a party can be considered a nuisance for many reasons, including underage drinking, littering, excessive noise or traffic, public drunkenness, or fighting.
In 2021, Scottsdale established a Short-Term Rental Task Force to address challenges created by properties. The city has since enacted new rules based on the group’s recommendations, including a $1,000 penalty for short-term rental owners who do not respond within the hour to an emergency on their property when contacted by the police.
The Scottsdale Police Department is also creating a short-term hire police team to respond to calls, a spokesperson said.
Many public officials and opponents of short-term rental housing in Arizona say security issues with short-term rentals, along with concerns about depleting housing stock and rising rental costs for residents, derive in part from a State Act of 2016 which prohibits cities and towns from banning short-term rentals.
“That hands-off attitude, anything goes, you end up with shootings,” said Bill Hunter, a Paradise Valley resident and co-founder of Neighbors Not Nightmares, a community group that campaigns against short-term rentals. .
While cities still can’t ban short-term rentals, a new state law that goes into effect this month will give municipalities more leeway to repress harmful properties. The law will allow cities and towns to require owners of short-term rentals to obtain a license from the municipality. It will also allow municipalities to suspend the licenses of properties that violate local or state law three times in one year.
Ortega said the Scottsdale City Council plans to consider a draft ordinance for a local licensing requirement on Sept. 20.
Impact on housing affordability
As Arizona grapples with an affordable housing crisis, housing advocates fear vacation rentals will gobble up homes and deplete the housing stock available to full-time residents.
The state needs 270,000 additional homes to deal with its housing crisis, according to the Arizona Department of Housing. If short-term rentals were available to residents, this would solve the housing shortage. There are nearly 6,000 active Airbnb and Vrbo listings in Scottsdale alone, according to AirDNA, a company that tracks short-term rental data. Most of these listings are for entire homes, not individual rooms.
In a recent report, the Arizona Housing Coalition said cities inability to restrict short-term rentals is one of many barriers to affordable housing in the state, especially in tourist areas like Sedona, Flagstaff and Scottsdale. Former Sedona City Manager Justin Clifton told The Arizona Republic in 2019 that short-term rentals accounted for 20% of the city’s entire housing stock.
The Arizona Housing Coalition report highlights steps other communities have taken to balance short-term rentals with preserving their affordable housing: Chicago imposed a short-term rental tax surtax that funds a local housing trust fund and Vail, Colorado, created a program that incentivizes residents to put a restriction in the deed to their home so that only full-time residents can buy or rent it.
Kate Bauer, co-founder of the Arizona Neighborhood Alliance, said building more homes won’t solve Arizona’s housing shortage until the short-term rental market is under control.
“If you don’t solve this problem, you will never solve the housing problem,” Bauer said. “You can’t keep building what will essentially be investments for people and not houses for people.”
Coverage of housing insecurity on azcentral.com and in the Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation.
Juliette Rihl covers housing insecurity and homelessness for the Arizona Republic. You can contact her via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @JulietteRihl.