Karen Sauther of the Fayston Planning Commission presented the commission’s preliminary research on short-term rentals (STRs) to the Fayston Select Board on September 28 to determine whether the town sees fit to devote resources to STR management. There’s been a lot of discussion on social media and within the Mad River Valley community recently about the impacts of STRs, such as Airbnb and VRBO, and the commission’s goal was to open a discussion.
STRs are defined as housing that is rented at least 14 days per calendar year, but not to one individual for more than 30 days. STRs are subject to a 9% Vermont rooms and meals tax. Governor Scott vetoed a bill in July that would create a state rental housing registry, in addition to transferring the authority for rental housing health and safety to the Department of Public Safety and creating the Vermont Rental Housing Investment Program. At this time there are no regulations in place on STRs in the state or town level.
Sauther said there are approximately 470 active STR listings in The Valley, including 183 in Fayston. She said 2018 data showed 18.9% of Fayston housing units are STRs.
Sauther expressed concern over the impact of STRs on The Valley and specifically Fayston, as well as the perceived and actual benefits. “This is a complex issue,” Sauther said. She said STRs put stress on infrastructure, including water and septic systems, increase traffic and limit parking and deplete existing housing. She noted that perceived benefits include bringing tourism resources to the local economy but stated that there is no evidence to support this. She also brought up the issue of decreased labor force in The Valley due to lack of housing and the impact of this labor shortage on local businesses.
Recently, the Mad River Housing Coalition had proposed a plan to adopt a Mad River Valley housing trust fund in Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston to help address the issue of affordable housing.
“This has to be a community-wide effort,” Fayston Select Board chair Jared Cadwell said. “The issue is Valley-wide and should be addressed,” added select board member Chuck Martel. The board agreed that Fayston should not take action on its own and should engage with Waitsfield and Warren about how to tackle the issue.
“I think we’ve got a lot to learn,” Cadwell said. Sauther asked for clarification from the board on what data is needed to advance action and what questions should be asked. The next steps are determining what further information needs to be gathered and connecting to other towns in The Valley to decide what can be done to regulate the rental market.
Close is a UVM student participating in the schools Community Newspaper Project which pairs student journalists with Vermont community newspapers.