The Warren Planning Commission hopes to begin gathering data to better understand the role that short-term rentals (STRs) have on housing insecurity in Warren.
At a September 25 meeting of the Warren Select Board, the planning commission presented a set of priorities for its work moving forward, asking the board whether those priorities aligned with the boards’ goals. One of these priorities included a broad focus on how to reduce the unmet need for housing in Warren – what commissioners called the “affordable workforce housing gap.”
The commission is interested in gathering data around the role that STRs may have on unmet housing needs, which would allow them to understand whether STRs should be regulated, and how.
Warren does not currently regulate or define STRs, but may take it up as the Land Use Development Regulations are updated this year. The state defines an STR as a “dwelling unit rented to the transient, traveling, or vacationing public for a period of fewer than 30 consecutive days and for more than 14 days per calendar year.”
Planning commissioner Dan Raddock told the board that “Warren has a successful history with short-term rentals,” and at the same time, “housing advocates point to the growth of short-term rentals as one of the reasons for the housing crisis.”
But “without the data,” he said, “it’s just conjecture.”
The commission suggested that the town purchase a subscription to rental data software like AirDNA, which scours Airbnb and Vrbo on a daily basis.
Raddock later said that “if we are able to identify how many homes were previously family occupied, or were long-term rental units that have been sold and converted into short term rental investment properties, this would suggest that STRs are playing a big role in the housing crisis. If there is not a lot of evidence that this is happening, then looking to fix the crisis by regulating STRs doesn’t make as much sense.”
Still, commissioners also said that they would look at how other Vermont towns have approached regulating STRs – whether by creating a registry of STRs, requiring property owners to pay a registration fee for listing them, or passing an ordinance to restrict STRs to some degree.
According to 2022 data collected by the MRV Planning District about Warren, Waitsfield and Fayston, over half of 388 respondents said that they or someone they knew had experienced long-term renter displacement that they attributed to STRs. Warren, at that time, had 472 STRs.
The commission told the board that there are at least 56 unmet housing needs in Warren, especially among middle-aged people.