If Boise can regulate short-term rentals to ease and avert the growing shortage of long-term housing, so can the Sun Valley area’s cities and Blaine County.

Even under the Idaho law that prohibits regulation of short-term rentals by cities and counties, they can still regulate matters of health, safety and welfare. That fact went unrecognized after the Legislature passed the law.

Even though it looked like every constituent was joining the parade to short-term profits from online rentals, it was easy for elected officials to claim that their hands were tied. However, events in Boise indicate that that may be changing.

Boise Mayor David Bieter wants the city to require owners to live on the site of short-term rentals and to register them with the city. He wants to limit short-term rentals to one unit for each residential property and to require rentals to comply with city development codes.

The city is concerned that accessory dwelling units being built next to existing homes will not improve its housing supply because they are rented short-term.

Short-term residential rentals are sucking the life out of residential neighborhoods in the Sun Valley area. Every town has blank windows much of the year in units where residents once lived. Owners now rent units for days or weeks to visitors for premium prices.

Businesses can’t find employees because employees have difficulty finding housing. Local nonprofits are seeing volunteer numbers shrink.

Valley cities and the county need to wake up to the fact that they are in the tourist business. They should watch Boise carefully, gather some political courage and ease pressure on the housing supply by regulating short-term rentals.

The valley should not have to become a virtual hotel before the cities take any action to ease the housing shortage.

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