Boise Skyline

A view of downtown Boise from the Boise Depot, Thursday, Feb. 7.

BOISE — City officials are looking into regulating short-term rentals, in an attempt to boost Boise’s housing stock and help stem the tide of rising rents.

On Thursday, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter announced a proposal to clamp down on vacation rentals, such as Airbnbs, in residential areas, in the hopes of calming neighbors’ concerns about the properties and reducing the rentals’ impact on the growing housing crisis.

The pitch includes:

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  • Owners have to live on the property.
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  • All new short-term rental properties must be registered with the city.
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  • Limit each taxable residential property to one short-term rental each.
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  • Require all short-term rentals to comply with the city’s development code standards.

Cody Riddle, deputy director of current planning, said this ordinance would be enforced similarly to other code violations. The city would investigate issues with short-term rentals if residents filed complaints.

“It’s very similar if someone converts their home into a duplex and doesn’t have approval (neighbors can file a complaint),” he said. “We’re not patrolling the streets, but if we have a complaint we can work with code enforcement, and we have tools for that.”

City officials did not have an exact count of how many short-term rentals exist in the city; Riddle estimated 1,000 or so. According to Airbnb, 73,200 guests stayed in an Airbnb rental in Ada County last year.

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All current short-term rentals would be grandfathered in and not required to register with the city under the new ordinance. Riddle said all new listings would require city approval and a fee. Because no language has been formally introduced for the ordinance, there is not fee amount estimate.

Concern over short-term rentals came up earlier this summer when residents gave feedback on the city’s new accessory dwelling unit ordinance, according to Bieter’s announcement. Allowing residents to build slightly larger ADUs, or mother-in-law suites, on their properties and easing parking requirements was the first step in Boise’s “Grow Our Housing” plan to increase housing supply and ease prices. Residents were worried this would only make it easier for property owners to profit on Airbnbs and not add housing stock to the city.

In 2017, Idaho passed a law forbidding cities and counties from banning short-term rentals; it does still allow them to be regulated with regard to health, safety and welfare and requires zoning ordinances to recognize them as a residential use. Riddle said the city looked into regulating short-term rentals after hearing feedback from residents.

City Council President Lauren McLean, one of the candidates running against Bieter in the Nov. 5 election, called for similar “common sense licensing practices” last month on her campaign website.

There is no timeline yet for when proposed language for the ordinance would be presented to city council.

The city has opened an online survey to gather input on these proposals, at cityofboise.org/short-term.

Margaret Carmel covers the city of Boise. Follow her on Twitter @mlcarmel or reach her by phone at 757-705-8066.

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