Showdown over future of short-term rentals in Burlington

Published: Mar. 21, 2022 at 5:57 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A showdown over the future of Airbnbs in Burlington on Monday night-- Mayor Miro Weinberger will officially veto an ordinance that would have wiped out most short-term rentals. But the City Council could try to override the veto or there may be a compromise in the works.

City councilors say an override vote will take place after the mayor vetoes the recently passed ordinance restricting short-term rentals.

However, the council needs a two-thirds majority vote in order to continue with the course they set forward one month ago.

The City Council passed the short-term rental ordinance back in February. It would limit short-term rentals to only rooms in owner-occupied dwellings or an entire home if the owner is away.

As of last fall, city data points to 246 short-term rentals in the city. Only 20% of them are room rentals in owner-occupied dwellings.

Councilors who support the ordinance say their goal is to make more apartments available for long-term rentals to help address the city’s housing shortage.

“If I said to you, I have a way to bring on the market in a matter of months hundreds of housing units, why would we not do it,” said Joan Shannon, D-Burlington City Council.

Mayor Miro Weinberger says he supports the regulation of short-term rentals but wants to allow the rental of whole, separate units on an owner-occupied property.

He says property owners may be more likely to create duplexes or triplexes if they can subsidize the cost with at least one unit being a short-term rental.

In a statement, Weinberger, D-Burlington, said, “I am concerned we will effectively be putting in place further barriers to the creation of new homes, deepening the very problem that the (short-term rental) restrictions seek to address.”

If the veto is upheld, the city says they will regulate current short-term rentals under the existing standards outlined by zoning as either bed-and-breakfasts or motels.

Shannon says keeping the status quo will do nothing to address the city’s affordable housing problem.

“It will allow continued conversations of existing housing units into bed-and-breakfast lodging units and I think it’s really going to hurt renters in our community,” she said.

The override would require all eight councilors who voted for the ordinance to vote that way again.

I reached out to all councilors on Monday. Those who responded said they’d be holding fast to their original votes.

Also on the agenda at Monday night’s City Council meeting-- revisiting parking regulations on North Winooski Avenue which had been previously denied. That’s a fight over whether remove parking for a dedicated bike lane that angered some residents.

Plus, there is the mayor’s proposal to build a low-barrier shelter pod facility for the homeless in the Old North End. The City Council will discuss that plan, as well.

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