Missoula’s short-term rental recommendations taking into account possible legislative rollback

Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Housing officials on Wednesday added details to the recent study conducted on short-term rentals in Missoula, and elaborated further on the rationale for their recommendations that the city council raise listing fees but refrain from… impose a moratorium on the practice.

Doing the latter could prompt the Montana legislature to change state law early next year in a bid to protect private property rights. That would make it harder for the city to monitor short-term rentals and make future regulatory changes, officials said.

For now, city housing officials have recommended an increase in registration fees and updating the city’s registration form to capture more real-time housing market data. short term rental.

“It will help us collect more information from operators to really have that qualitative data on what’s happening on the ground,” said Emily Harris-Shears, the city’s housing policy specialist. “That might be something we can learn with more information from operators.”

The report, compiled by Granicus software, found 445 unique short-term rental listings, including 110 registered with the city. The disparity does not mean that the other listings do not comply with the city ordinance, rather that they are owner-occupied most of the year.

Rikki Henderson, manager of the city’s housing program, said about 61% of current listings are for single-family units and 95% are renting the entire unit. Most of the listings are for one or two bedroom units that sell for an average price of $150 a night.

Housing officials believe many landlords are using the earnings as supplemental income. They also said that although the study was conducted in April, a more recent review suggested enrollment numbers had remained constant.

“We have a relatively low number of registrations per 100,000 households,” she said. “We’re a bit higher than Billings, but significantly lower than resort-style communities.”

Gathering more information could go a long way in answering additional questions, housing officials said, including who is renting homes and why.

Currently, the city’s housing experts said short-term rentals are used by local residents, not just tourists.

“These are people in between tenancies, people displaced from a long-term tenancy, people whose homes were damaged and who were living in a short-term tenancy awaiting repairs,” Henderson said. “We have heard people say that members of our refugee community are using them while waiting for long-term accommodation. There are many nuances. This is why we have proposed more active monitoring of these units.

Despite the data, some community members have called for an outright ban on short-term rentals, suggesting they are negatively impacting the city’s available housing stock.

The Granicus study suggested that only 1.5% of housing in the city was used as short-term rentals. A city official also suggested a moratorium could be illegal under federal and state law.

Other cities have tried but have been overturned by the courts.

“The Constitution of the State of Montana has inalienable rights which include the acquisition, possession and protection of property. There is also the Equal Protection Clause in the US Constitution, and there are powers denied to local governments which include any power affecting any private or civil relationship,” council member Gwen Jones said. “We cannot regulate in this form or in this way. It’s been a common refrain, but we can’t really go there.

Taking a tougher tact at this point could also result in the legislature stepping back when it reconvenes in January, Harris-Shears said.

“We are alert to measures that could potentially inspire intervention,” she said. “We are thinking about a new session and want to think about measures we could implement or propose that could potentially inspire intervention by the legislature that could call into question our ability to implement our current approach, or any potential future recommendations. “

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