by Lauryn Katz, Vermont Community News
Vermont continues to see spikes in housing prices with the median home price rising 15% in 2022, according to the Vermont Housing Finance Agency. Communities and state officials alike have spent a lot of time discussing how the growth of short-term rentals in Vermont has contributed to the state’s housing crisis.
But Randolph’s Josh Hanford— Vermont’s commissioner of Housing and Community Development—thinks too much regulation on the rentals from the state could prove ineffective and that short-term rentals (such as those advertised on Airbnb.com) are only a small part of the housing problem. Instead, he thinks regulating short-term rentals is best done at the local level.
“Different communities have different problems they are trying to address with short-term rentals,” he said.
Many of Vermont’s shortterm rentals are in ski towns like Killington, which has one of the strongest regulations on short-term rentals, Hanford said. The town thrives on those types of properties and implemented regulations to help reduce environmental and safety concerns to keep tourism booming, he said.
In Burlington, on the other hand, some people may see regulation of short-term rentals as necessary to limit the possibility of property owners just renting to tourists when people in town are struggling to find a place.
Orange County has one of the lower percentages of short-term rentals in Vermont, accounting for just under 1% of the area’s homes.
“We’re advocating that before you propose some sort of regulation on short-term rentals, you ought to first know your local data, know what’s going on and make sure what you are going to propose as a regulation actually is going to have that outcome you want,” Hanford said.
But with short-term rentals accounting for only 3% of Vermont’s housing stock, Hanford believes regulators should turn their attention elsewhere.
“The solution is to encourage more housing development,” he said. Government incentives to promote building modest homes and requiring them to be sold to folks who want to actually live in them can help drive the costs of building down, he said.
Hanford pointed to another contributor to the housing crisis: Second homes account for 17% of Vermont’s housing stock, with many of those likely lying vacant for months at a time. All the attention can’t be directed at short-term rentals alone, he said.
Regulating short-term rentals may only be part of a solution, Hanford said, “but it’s not really the solution to our bigger affordable housing problems we have.”