Vermont cities begin to regulate short-term rentals | Economy | Seven days

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  • Jeb Wallace Brodeur
  • Vincent Connolly and Moriah Stokes

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When Moriah Stokes and Vincent Connolly bought a second home in Morrisville in 2017, they were already planning to list it on Airbnb.

The couple were living in Colorado at the time and Stokes, who grew up in Morrisville, wanted to be able to visit family without staying in a hotel. Renting the house meant the property didn’t sit vacant and it provided extra cash. When the couple decided to move back to Vermont in 2019 to raise their three young children, home was waiting for them.

Stokes and Connolly acknowledge that they have benefited enormously from their short-term rental. “Vincent was like, ‘I want to have 10. I want to have one at every ski resort,'” Stokes joked.

But when Stokes and Connolly moved in, their views on short-term rentals changed. Morrisville is just north of Stowe and Stowe Mountain Resort, making it an ideal location for converting single-family homes and apartments into short-term rentals. After watching vacation rentals proliferate in their neighborhood, the couple became strong supporters of a successful effort last year to impose limits on short-term rentals in the village.

According to AirDNA, a Denver-based company that tracks the short-term rental industry, 157 of Morrisville’s 1,078 homes were active rentals through Airbnb or Vrbo in 2021 — and the number was growing 7% quarterly.

Stokes, who returned to Vermont largely because of the sense of community she remembered from her youth, said it was difficult to see her hometown change so quickly. “I would rather keep the community and lose my investment,” Connolly said.

Stokes and Connolly’s evolving views capture both sides of the heated argument in a growing number of Vermont towns. Neighbors and some policymakers say the conversion of homes to vacation rentals has deepened Vermont’s housing crisis and eroded the character of communities; they want to regulate and limit short-term rentals. But owners of short-term rentals say they rely on income from their properties to make living in Vermont more affordable. They oppose the limitation of activity.

According to Vermont Short-Term Rental Alliance, at least 14 communities have already taken steps to regulate the practice.

At the state level, regulation has been pushed back: Governor Phil Scott vetoed a bill that would have established a national long- and short-term rental registry in 2021. Last year, under the pressure from the governor, lawmakers abandoned the idea. Now it’s back. This week, Senate lawmakers plan to release the first omnibus housing bill that will include provisions for collecting data on short-term rentals.

As of August 2022, about 9,757 homes, or 3% of Vermont’s total stock, were constantly being used as short-term rentals, according to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. That’s up from 2019, when the number was only around 5,300 homes. In Lamoille County, home to Stowe and Morrisville, nearly 9% of housing is used for temporary stays.

“Short-term rentals are considered a blessing and a curse,” said Ted Brady, executive director of the Vermont League of Cities & Towns. Brady has noticed more talk of short-term rentals at selection committee meetings across the state. But the problem is different in every community, and he argues that solutions need to be personalized.

In towns near ski resorts, short-term rentals abound. Some resort communities, such as Stowe, have done nothing to regulate short-term rentals. Others take a cautious approach.

Killington and Chester, for example, have opted to require short-term rentals to register with the city, a first step intended to monitor the number of rental conversions.

“Rather than doing nothing, we will take a kind of crawl-walk-run approach,” said Hugh Quinn, chairman of Chester’s planning commission.

Greensboro planners pursued a similar strategy. The planning commission recommended in October the creation of a register of short-term rentals. The by-law is awaiting a public vote this day of the municipal assembly.

“The feeling is that we don’t have a problem right now, but we want to understand the magnitude of the situation,” said Kent Hansen, chairman of the city’s planning commission.

Other communities have gone further. Since August, landlords in Burlington have largely limited themselves to short-term, owner-occupied rentals, with a few exceptions. In Londonderry, restrictions are being drawn up to address both the effect of short-term rentals on the housing stock and concerns over noisy ‘party houses’.

In Woodstock, the planning department is committed to comprehensively regulating short-term rentals. Tackling the acute housing shortage is a top priority, according to Director of Planning and Zoning Steven Bauer. Every short-term rental in Woodstock must go through a conditional approval process, and owners of properties in the Village of Woodstock are permitted to rent rooms no more than six times per calendar year, excluding the winter season. foliage. Last year, the Selection Committee approved a program that pays landlords to convert short-term rentals to long-term rentals. So far, however, there have been no takers.

Not everyone is happy with the rental rules. Julie Marks, founder and director of the Vermont Short-Term Rental Alliance, noted that short-term rentals provide Vermont homeowners with income to cover expenses, from paying their taxes to funding their retirement.

“I think people forget that they’re people, they’re their neighbors,” Marks said. Data shows that most short-term rentals are, in fact, family businesses. According to Transparent, an international vacation rental data analyzer, about 75% of Vermont vacation rental owners in 2021 had only one or two short-term rental properties.

In Morrisville, however, City Planning Director Todd Thomas said he felt the urgency to set some boundaries. “It was clear to me that if we didn’t get it this time, I didn’t think we were going to be able to put the genie back in the bottle,” he said.

Morrisville’s planning and zoning department focused on short-term rentals and housing development to respond to what Thomas called a community “rallying cry” for more housing.

He cited neighboring Stowe as an example of what can happen if short-term rentals are not regulated. “If you go to Stowe in the shoulder season, there are a lot of houses that are empty,” he said. “We don’t want to be like Stowe in that regard. The intent here is to protect our neighborhoods.”

It was a challenge. The community of 2,210 currently has around 450 apartments under construction – the fastest housing growth it has ever seen – but Thomas said that was not enough to compensate for the loss of units to short-term rentals. term and the need for long-term housing.

Since 2017, Morrisville has restricted short-term rentals in the downtown area, but last year those rules were extended to the entire village. As of December 2022, residents can only have one short-term rental unit, and it must be their primary property. They must also comply with citywide occupancy limits and fire inspection requirements. Those who already operated multiple short-term rentals were grandfathered.

Todd said the settlement caused heated discussion. Planning sessions usually take place at municipal offices, but for meetings dealing with short-term rental regulations, the commission had to rent a tent to accommodate the more than 130 residents who showed up.

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Roger Marcoux Jr. in front of his Airbnb - JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR

  • Jeb Wallace Brodeur
  • Roger Marcoux Jr. in front of his Airbnb

Stokes and Connolly were the main regulatory spokespersons. A voice on the other side was Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux Jr., a resident of Morrisville. Marcoux said Seven days that he bought a property in 2021 to use as a short-term rental to help pay for his children’s school fees. When Marcoux heard about short-term rental regulations, he worried: “We had a plan and were a little pissed that all of a sudden the rules were going to change,” he explained.

Marcoux is likely in the minority, according to a survey of 573 Lamoille County residents by the Working Communities Challenge, a statewide initiative backed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. When asked if the area lacked housing options, 82% of those who responded cited a long-term housing shortage in the area; 67% thought their city should have a short-term rental ordinance.

Today, Stokes and Connolly lament that most of their neighborhood has become Airbnbs. Out-of-state vacationers use the units occasionally; otherwise, the houses are dark in the evening.

“The tidal wave is coming to Morrisville in some neighborhoods, like mine,” Stokes said. “Maybe the wave has already crashed.”

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