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Ketchum Looks To Other Idaho Resort Cities For Ideas On Short-Term Rental Regulations

Sun Valley Resort in the summer
Thomas Hawk
Flickr Creative Commons

Ketchum is considering new restrictions on short-term rental units as one solution to the local housing crisis.

City leaders have previously said they can’t regulate the approximately 700 to 900 short-term rentals in Ketchum because of a 2017 Idaho state law, which only allows cities to crack down on services like Airbnb and VRBO if they affect public health or safety.

But a pressing housing crisis has forced the city to take another look at the legislation, and now it thinks there might be a gray area.

For example, the legislation says counties and cities can implement “reasonable regulations” to safeguard “the public health, safety and general welfare in order to protect the integrity of residential neighborhoods in which short-term rentals or vacation rentals operate.”

City attorney Matt Johnson presented councilmembers with an outline of possible short-term rental regulations during a council meeting Tuesday evening.

Johnson said the city needs to walk a fine line legally, and also politically.

“I think it’s safe to say the short-term rental marketplaces did a very good job lobbying the state legislature on this,” he said of the 2017 legislation, “and I’m pretty sure the first time they start taking affront to some local regulation, they may decide that instead of spending money on a legal challenge to just run back to the legislature.”

Johnson’s presentation was based on two other Idaho resort communities that do regulate short-term rentals to some extent. Sandpoint has a cap on the number in residential zones and McCall limits how many people can stay at one listing.

Still, Ketchum city council members questioned whether short-term rental regulations would in fact boost the long-term rental supply – a major housing issue and part of the city’s motivation for considering the new rules.

Mayor Neil Bradshaw said city staff will come back to a future council meeting with a draft ordinance that will likely focus on requiring rental owners to obtain a permit versus limiting the number of them in the city, which would present more of a legal risk.

Short-term rental units are currently required to obtain a business license in Ketchum, but the city said not every owner does that. If there was better compliance and enforcement, the city could get better data on the number of rentals and their effects on the community, councilmembers said.

Find reporter Rachel Cohen on Twitter @racheld_cohen

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