Lawmakers can fix Utah’s problem with outlawed AirBNBs and improve affordable housing in the state in the process. explains Robert Gehrke.

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Don’t get me wrong: I like short-term rentals.

But last year, I wrote about a real problem: Utah’s booming short-term rental market was exacerbating an already unsustainable housing shortage in the state.

Additionally, a significant portion of these short-term rentals are located in places where cities say they aren’t allowed due to zoning restrictions, but the legislature had tied cities’ hands, passing a law there. has five years prohibiting municipalities from enforcing zoning restrictions. by going to an Airbnb or VRBO site and identifying illegal rentals.

Instead, they had to wait for another infraction – a noise complaint from a neighbor or a call from the police.

That could finally be about to change.

On Wednesday, Rep. Steve Waldrip, R-Eden, released a major affordable housing bill with lots of good provisions (more on those later), including the final lines of the measure, which would repeal the restriction silly about how cities are allowed to crack down on illegal short-term rentals.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Steve Waldrip discusses clean air legislation and appropriations requests during the 2021 general session, with the bipartisan Clean Air Caucus of the Legislature of Utah, during a press conference on the steps of the Capitol, Wednesday, February 10, 2021.

When I wrote my article last year, I received a lot of feedback from short-term rental hosts and the property rights crowd.

“While I understand all of your complaints, I disagree that the government should have any control over what anyone does with their private property,” one reader wrote of my post. “Only a liberal would suggest that government controls and interferes with what citizens do with private property. …People like you disgust me.

Waldrip will likely get some of that same flack. And I understand those who think: what’s the problem if I let someone rent a place for a few nights?

Well, for one thing, they’re illegal. And, as Waldrip – who is not liberal – explains, they can disrupt communities.

“While they’re a great tool in the right place, in the wrong place, they can cause problems with neighborhoods and communities where they aren’t zoned for it,” he said. “There is an expectation when people move into a neighborhood and the zoning is such that they are not allowed. When they become prevalent and change the neighborhood, you get a whole different feeling.

Then there is the scope of the market and its impact on the overall picture of housing in Utah. There are 19,000 short-term rental units statewide, according to the Kem Gardner Policy Institute. Each of these is a rental unit that a Utahn might otherwise call home. Waldrip said about 30% of them are not legally located.

The problem is especially acute in resort communities like Park City, where more than a third of the city’s structures are short-term rentals and the city has less than a quarter of the affordable housing it needs.

“If you take those rentals that are inappropriately held for one-night rentals and put them back into the housing market, you’re talking about a significant number of housing units coming back into the market,” he said. said Waldrip.

Returning those 5,700 units to long-term rentals could help significantly reduce the estimated 55,000-unit shortage in single-family homes, apartments and other housing types across the state.

Obviously, this does not solve the whole problem. This is where the rest of Waldrip’s bill comes in.

The cornerstone of the bill is an inventory of moderate-income housing across the state, so we can identify the biggest problems, set goals for how much each community should contribute to the solution, and then dedicate resources to achieve this goal. And that comes with resources, seeking $50 million for the Olene Walker Housing fund.

Under the bill, cities would be required to submit specific strategies to develop affordable housing and prioritize money to those willing to be most aggressive about the mission. A review, Waldrip said, will direct communities to build around Trax, FrontRunner and bus lanes.

It is investing an additional $50 million in a rural housing loan fund aimed at helping boost investment in housing and paying labor in places that lack both.

“As severe as the problem is along the Wasatch front, I think it’s even more acute in rural Utah,” Waldrip said. “We have communities in rural Utah where they have two or three houses available, but they have 150 to 200 job openings.”

There are other good things in the bill, too, like the requirement that 20 percent of the housing on the former state prison site be allocated to moderate-income occupants. It is a good piece of legislation. It could be a game-changer. And it is sure to ruffle some feathers of those who are tired of more construction and more housing density and think it is eroding their quality of life.

But according to Waldrip, his bill is about ensuring our next generation can afford to live here and preserving Utah’s quality of life.

“We need to start preaching … that for the first time since the pioneers, immigration to Utah last year exceeded our native growth,” he said. “If we want to destroy the quality of life in Utah, the quickest path is to export our children because they have no homes and import people from other places who can afford a home. very expensive accommodation.”

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