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Officials say vacation rentals worsen housing crisis

Posted at 6:40 AM, Aug 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-24 06:40:32-04

It's a scenario you're probably familiar with — you're going on vacation, but don't want to stay in a hotel, so you book a short-term rental.

But now, the latter is at the center of a growing controversy, as short-term rentals are being blamed by local officials for worsening the nation's ongoing affordable housing crisis.

"One in every three housing units is a short-term rental," according to Steamboat Springs, Colo. city council member Heather Sloop.

The Colorado ski town is one of many vacation destinations where local officials say people from out-of-state are buying many of the available homes and renting them out in the off-season.

This, in turn, takes away potential homes from full-time residents and sends real estate prices through the roof.

"As a 44-year-old that works a full-time job, I'm not even able to afford to live," said Steamboat Springs resident Sean Bailey.

A study by Airbnb found short-term rentals are critical to supporting more than 13,000 jobs across several counties in the Rocky Mountain region alone.

The lack of affordable housing is being attributed to job growth outpacing home construction.

"They're an important part of our resort tourism-based economy," said Margaret Bowes, executive director of the Colorado Association of Ski Towns. "We just cannot sustain the rate at which properties are turning into short-term rentals and still have a community."

Relief, however, may be on the way: Members of the Steamboat Springs City Council recently banned new short-term rentals in most parts of the city.

They're also proposing a 9% bookings tax on existing rentals to help fund more affordable housing options. The idea could inspire other vacation towns to do the same.

Marianne Rafferty reported from Los Angeles.