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Bozeman city commission votes to ban some types of short-term rentals

Bozeman City Hall
Bozeman City Hall

Bozeman city commissioners on Tuesday voted in favor of a future ban on non-owner occupied short-term rentals. While the ordinance would prohibit new permits for these types of rentals, those currently in compliance will be allowed to continue renting their units on platforms like Airbnb.

Type 3, non-owner occupied, short-term rentals are typically second homes or investment properties. These units make up about a third of the 317 licensed short-term rentals in Bozeman.

The commission was considering completely banning these types moving forward, including ones that are currently permitted.

Mayor Cyndy Andrus supported a grandfather clause amendment for type three owners who she says have been following current laws, adding that these units would not have a big impact on housing affordability.

“I too believe that we should be looking for providing housing for people that live and work in Bozeman to be able to have housing, but i don't think we can forget about that the fact that some of the folks we heard from tonight who own type three short-term rentals also live and work in Bozeman, and the idea that they need those short-term rentals, those type 3s to be able to maintain and to be able to stay in our community,” she said.

Commissioner Christopher Coburn did not support the grandfather clause, saying the city should use all tools available to address the housing crisis.

“Accepting a grandfather clause is accepting of the status quo, which is that in the housing crisis we are allowing at least 100 units to be taken out of our housing supply for the sake of people who don’t live here and that is not a status quo that I’m comfortable with and that frankly none of us should be comfortable with that,” he said.

With Coburn as the dissenting vote, the commission voted 3-1 to ban the issuance of new permits for type 3’s, but to allow those that already have a permit to continue operating.

Benjamin Finegan is a leader with the Bozeman Tenants United Group that has been pushing for a complete ban on type 3 short-term rentals. He says the ordinance moves Bozeman towards being a city where people who work there can afford to live.

“The feelings are mixed, but overall our membership is very pleased that this ordinance passed, even the watered down version, and are excited that the city commission voted to pass this law that is going to open up more units of housing in the next year and preserve and protect future housing that gets built in bozeman for tenants and protect it from Airbnb investors,” he said.

The new ordinance also brings some changes to those who rent out their primary residence or an accessory dwelling unit on their property. With increases in residency requirements, they will now only be allowed to rent their properties for 30 percent of the year.

If the ordinance passes second reading next month it will go into effect in mid December.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.