By the admission of at least one member, the Bozeman City Commission has “kicked the can down the road” on the issue of growing numbers of homes turned into vacation rentals in the city.

Visit any vacation home rental website and you’ll find hundreds of Bozeman homes offered as vacation rentals. This is a dramatic increase from the 1990s and — in a market where the conventional rental market has almost no vacancies — it’s becoming a problem.

Neighbors to vacation rentals voice concerns about traffic and late-night party noise coming from these rentals and the commercialization of their neighborhoods as more and more rentals hit the market.

The commission is slated to take up the issue again at their June 27 meeting. And this time some sort of action is called for.

City staff has plenty of resources to call upon. Other tourist-oriented cities in the region have regulated the vacation-home rental business. Measuring the success of those efforts should give commissioners a starting point.

Some things to consider: Vacation rentals are businesses like any other and they should be treated as such. They should be limited in numbers and to appropriate locations by zoning codes. And they should have to comply with the same taxes and safety codes that apply to other hospitality businesses.

But perhaps more importantly, commissioners should consider the impact this industry has on residents.

In the absence of regulation, quiet residential neighborhoods could potentially be robbed of their character. And the impact of the issue on the affordable housing crisis facing the city cannot be ignored. One vocational rental website listed 280 homes available in Bozeman recently. Taking that many homes off the sales and rental market in a city the size of Bozeman is certainly going to drive up home prices and rents substantially.

Established vacation rental businesses should not be hit with sudden or onerous regulation. But a moratorium on permitting new vacation rentals while city staff maps out a way to get some control over the growth on this burgeoning economic sector is not unreasonable.

The issue has been kicked down the road long enough.

Editorial Board

  • Mark Dobie, publisher
  • Nick Ehli, managing editor
  • Bill Wilke, opinion page editor
  • Don Beeman, community member
  • Richard Broome, community member
  • Renee Gavin, community member
  • Sarabeth Rees, community member
  • David Swingle, community member

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