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A regional collaboration of public media stations that serve the Rocky Mountain States of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

In several Colorado mountain towns, Airbnb's on the ballot

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Short-term rentals are great for tourists looking for alternative lodging options, but they're also contributing to housing shortages and sky-high real estate prices.

News brief

Some of the West’s most popular ski towns are voting Tuesday on whether to regulate short-term vacation rentals.

In Colorado, voters in Telluride are looking at capping the number of short-term rentals in town and doubling licensing fees. In Crested Butte, there’s a proposal to raise taxes on vacation rentals to help pay for affordable housing. The towns of Avon, Leadville and Ouray are also considering similar measures.

The ballot questions reflect a crackdown up and down the Rocky Mountains amid the rising popularity of home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb and VRBO. Last year, Taos, N.M., voted to limit the number of short-term rentals there. And earlier this month officials in a county in southwest Utah also limited vacation rentals for some areas.

These rentals are great for tourists looking for alternative lodging options, but they can also contribute to housing shortages and high real estate prices.

“A lot of times the folks who own these places are able to bid up the prices and pay a little more for those houses knowing that they can recoup some of that price premium by renting the house out,” says Megan Lawson, an economist with the nonprofit Headwaters Economics.

She says stricter regulations on vacation rentals can help with the West’s housing crisis, but it isn’t a silver bullet.

“They’re not going to take care of everything,” Lawson says.

She says other factors, including a lack of workforce housing, second homeowners, and the rise of remote work are also fueling the affordable housing crisis.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.