Carbondale scrutinizes short-term rentals
Carbondale trustees, taking up one of their first big issues since the April election reshaped the board, considered this week how they’ll regulate the town’s short-term rental market.
The board is looking to stop property owners from taking long-term rental units off the market to offer them at heavily increased prices to tourists looking for a short stay.
By far the most frequent campaign promises from the newly elected trustees revolved around affordable housing.
An extreme example of the nation’s rising short-term rental practice can be found in San Francisco, where entire blocks of rental units sit empty when they’re not occupied by vacationers, said Trustee Katrina Byars.
First, the trustees made some important distinctions between what types of short-term rentals they’re after and which ones they think are good for the community.
Several short-term rental operators, from bed-and-breakfast owners to people simply making extra money by renting out a room, attended the work session Wednesday concerned that trustees were going to crack down on their small businesses.
Greg Fitzpatrick, who rents out his property through Airbnb, argued that such operations are drawing more tourists that feed the town’s sales tax coffers, and Carbondale simply doesn’t have many hotel beds to offer.
Others who rent out a room in their home on a short-term basis said it is a way to help them afford to live in Carbondale.
Trustee Marty Silverstein mentioned another short-term rental situation that could be a gray area: A Carbondale resident had to live out of state for a time to care for his son, and he wanted to rent out his house in the meantime.
The board unanimously agreed that its not looking to further regulate short-term rentals in which the owner also lives at the residence.
Rather, the board is targeting homeowners, often from out of town, who specifically buy a house with the intention of taking it off the market and offering it as a short-term rental – and therefore reducing the housing stock.
Byars, whose rental residence was recently sold, sending her on a search for local accommodations, said she knows of three community members who have lost their rentals specifically so those homes could be converted into an Airbnb.
Town staff complied a list of other municipalities and how they’ve handled the short-term rental market.
Of the towns examined, only Boulder has banned short-term rentals outright. Many other municipalities, like Carbondale, have left the issue undefined and largely unregulated.
The town does require short-term rental operators to get a sales tax license, and it collects a 3.5 percent sales tax from them. Carbondale’s 2 percent lodging tax, all of which goes to the tourism board, is also applied to short-term rentals.
Many other communities also require a business license on top of a sales tax license, but Carbondale has not, said Town Manager Jay Harrington.
Town staff monitors websites like VRBO.com and Airbnb.com for short-term rentals being offered within town limits, and contacts those business owners to make sure the town’s going to get its sales tax.
Harrington said the town staff has counted about 40 short-term rentals in Carbondale.
Silverstein also wants these operations to undergo a certification process to ensure basic safety precautions, such as having a fire extinguisher, CO2 detector and some kind of management in town to deal with emergencies.
The board is considering requiring permits for short-term rentals not occupied by the owner, which is not currently required.
Town staff will take the matter to the planning commission for work on the Unified Development Code regarding distinctions between short-term rentals and bed and breakfasts.
Staff will also be analyzing impacts, such as to traffic, water service and parking, of the short-term rentals in town.
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