Morristown cracks down on short-term rentals to fight housing crisis

Published: Dec. 12, 2022 at 6:06 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 12, 2022 at 7:29 PM EST
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MORRISTOWN, Vt. (WCAX) - Morristown is the latest Vermont community to tackle the housing crisis by cracking down on short-term rentals.

The housing crisis in Lamoille County is no secret to residents or officials.

“Housing in Morrisville is incredibly scarce. It’s been that way for a handful of years now,” said Todd Thomas, the planning director and zoning administrator in Morristown.

Although building more housing is part of the solution, locals are now trying to find and address different factors that might be contributing to the short supply of long-term housing available.

“We cannot build our way out of our housing crisis. We have almost 200 families in Lamoille County who are housing insecure. We cannot build enough units fast enough to house all those people,” said Emily Rosenbaum of the Working Communities Challenge of Lamoille County.

That’s why the Working Communities Challenge is surveying residents on short-term rentals like Airbnb and VRBO.

“What we’re trying to do is gather data about how short-term rentals are functioning in our community and really data about whether the short-term rentals are serving our community members,” Rosenbaum said.

The group says information exists on the number of short-term rentals statewide, but there is still little known about short-term rentals in the local communities. So, survey results will be provided to Lamoille County towns.

“The area that really wasn’t getting the amount of attention we thought we probably needed was short-term rentals. We gathered a group from around the community and we realized we were missing that granular local data,” Rosenbaum said.

In Morristown, bylaws attempting to lessen the number of short-term rentals have already taken effect.

“If you’re thinking about buying your neighbor’s house to short-term rental, don’t, you can’t do it here anymore,” Thomas said.

Although the new rules may impact the ski business in the area, town officials say it was a necessary move.

“We made the tough choice to restrict short-term rentals to owner-occupied,” Thomas said. “Our short-term rental rates were growing at 9% per quarter here so we’re losing 9% of our housing units per quarter. Our new rental regulation rules they’re much stricter than anywhere else around, certainly stricter than Stowe next door, we just can’t do anymore as we can’t afford to keep losing the housing for people.”

Thomas says he’s interested in the results of the survey and hopeful to be able to use it when it comes to future housing decisions.

“We hope to continue to grow our community in a responsible manner and have housing available for people who want to live and work here... we’ll see what the survey results show us,” Thomas said.

The Working Communities Challenge will continue to collect survey responses until the first week of January.

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