Mountain towns weigh moratoriums on new short-term rentals

Vail council says ‘no’ while Steamboat council says ‘yes’ to pause on new applications

While tourist towns across the Mountain West grapple with a workforce housing shortage, many town governments are discussing what — if anything — to do about short-term rentals.

The Breckenridge Town Council recently decided against voting on a moratorium on new applications but said the option was still on the table.

On Tuesday, July 20, the Vail Town Council faced a similar question, backing away from a 90-day moratorium but agreeing to go ahead with a study to learn more about short-term rental impacts in town.

The debate brought a wave of public comment, both in person and via Zoom, with most opposed to the ordinance, including a number of Realtors.

Crissy Rumford, the branch broker at Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate’s Lionshead office, said the proposed ordinance was a “knee jerk” reaction on the town’s part and a “violation of personal property rights,” saying the suspension would preclude owners from making full use of their properties.

Realtor Kevin Kuebert said, “This is going to affect a lot of people’s lives.” He encouraged council members to do the study without suspending registrations.

Council member Travis Coggin said the issue is a matter of economics. Coggin acknowledged that he short-term rents his small condo when he’s out of town or during holidays.

“It’s been a great source of income,” Coggin said.

And that income can be alluring. Coggin noted his own place would long-term rent for roughly $24,000 per year. Using it only for short-term rentals could net in the neighborhood of $60,000 per year, he added.

Council member Jen Mason, who also voted against the moratorium, said solutions need to come quickly.

“There’s no doubt (short-term) rentals have taken away long-term rentals,” Mason said, adding that she’d like the town to beef up its enforcement of parking and other restrictions and move more quickly to revoke owners’ registrations when there are issues.

To the north in Steamboat Springs, the city’s council also voted on a short-term rental moratorium Tuesday night, deciding on first reading to extend its 90-day pause on new applications to six months while the city works to find affordable housing solutions.

“There is no silver bullet for affordable housing, but we’re trying to do all these small things to help,” said council member Lisel Petis, who pointed to vacation home rentals, which are a type of short-term rental, as a driving force behind Steamboat’s workforce housing shortage.

The moratorium only impacts vacation home rentals, which account for 211 of the city’s 3,854 registered short-term rentals, according to data from Sarah Bradford, owner of Steamboat Lodging Co. Bradford said the data was collected by KeyData, a data source used by the Steamboat Chamber.

While Petis pointed to unregulated short-term rentals as an affordable housing and neighborhood character issue, council President Jason Lacy said the primary issue to him was the repeated complaints from residents about trash, loud parties and too many cars in traditionally residential neighborhoods.

“There is an affordable housing component to this, but it is also largely neighborhood character,” Lacy said. “I would want to look at a map and somehow look at what are the rates of local ownership and values of the homes.”

Lacy acknowledged the task may be difficult but said he supported regulating short-term rentals in more residential neighborhoods and letting them continue to exist unregulated in the areas closest to the resort, where property is more expensive and visitors are more inclined to stay.

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