The Blaine County Housing Authority is considering banning its tenants and homeowners from listing deed-restricted units as short-term rentals on popular platforms such as Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. 

The move comes after Executive Director Nathan Harvill received an anonymous letter from a neighbor who found a nearby unit from the Housing Authority inventory listed on Airbnb. The listing was removed after Harvill called the tenant.  

“It was an innocent mistake,” he said during the BCHA board’s quarterly meeting last week. “I told them they couldn’t do it, and they agreed.” 

The practice is not widespread within the BCHA’s portfolio, Harvill said. But it has happened in the past, too, mirroring a countywide problem of vacation rentals eating into the supply for long-term residents. So, to head off future problems, he asked the board to consider amending the Housing Authority’s guidelines to explicitly ban short-term rentals. 

The terms tied to BCHA’s deed-restricted homes bans rentals, anyway—if you can find the chapter in the 50-page document. To Harvill, there’s safety in clarity, even if it’s a bit redundant.  

“You can follow [the guidelines], but it takes a lot of roads and trails get there,” he told the board.  

In banning short-term rentals,

the Housing Authority would do

something cities and counties can’t.  

Two years ago, then-Gov. Butch Otter signed a state law prohibiting any city or county from enacting ordinances to restrict short-term rentals, except in cases of health, safety or welfare. (The law did require that the rentals remit the applicable taxes back to the local and state governments.) 

Meanwhile, short-term rentals have boomed in Blaine County. In the three years from the second quarter of 2016 to the second quarter of 2019, listings in the Wood River Valley’s four cities have grown more than 3.5-fold, from 349 to 1,267, according to AirDNA, a rental-market research firm.  

The BCHA board is expected to consider the change as part of a complete review of its guidelines during a special meeting on Sept. 18.

Email the writer: mdee@mtexpress.com

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