Juneau may soon have a clearer picture of its short-term rental ecosystem.
Last week the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee OK’d the city to begin drafting an ordinance that would effectively make it a requirement to register short-term rentals with the city.
The decision came after a presentation of a recent study was shared with Assembly members which outlined the challenges of collecting data of the short-term rentals stock in Juneau without any means to differentiate or efficiently assess duplicate, intermittent and active versus inactive listings.
Under the proposed ordinance, short-term rentals would register with the city to obtain a permit. Since the ordinance is still being drafted, specifics about the registration program, such as fees, are not yet known.
According to the data analyzed, on just one given day in mid-February, there were an estimated 577 active and intermittent listings of short-term rentals across Juneau, however, the data can fluctuate from day to day, said Ruth Kostik, a CBJ revenue officer who gave the presentation.
“You can see there has been a lot of growth in short-term rentals in the past year, with the Ironman bump, we continue to have slower but steady growth since then,” she said.
The “Ironman bump” she referred to is the period when the initial announcement of the race was made back in August 2021. According to the data, the influx of short-term rentals in Juneau began to grow exponentially after that period.
However, how much growth is still difficult to say for certain, Kostik explained, as the study suggests that of the 577 short-term rentals accounted for, it’s estimated at least 173 could be duplicate listings. Along with those challenges, she said the listings often show inconsistent identification and data depending on the platforms used.
According to the survey, nearly 85% of the listings identified in the study are for renting out an entire home/apartment, while the remaining 15% or so represent single/shared room listings or more off-beat rentals like campsites, tiny homes or boats.
For each of those listings, the person or business offering the short-term rentals is required to comply with the city’s sales tax code, which includes charging the renter for both regular and hotel bed tax to then be remitted to the city.
The study identified a slew of challenges with understanding the number of operators complying with the city’s sales tax code in Juneau’s short-term rentals stock. Kostik said the study found that short-term rental operators often either don’t know or understand the city’s sales tax requirements for the rentals and in turn are not complying.
Kostik said if the city chose to implement short-term rental registration, a lot of the challenges outlined by the study could be resolved.
Some of the things that the registration would do are require operators to display their permit license number in their online listings, which would streamline the city’s ability to decipher which short-term rentals are active and give more accurate data on the inventory of rentals in the city, Kostik explained.
“With requiring short-term rentals we can collect good information, consistent information so that we have a quality inventory,” she said. “It makes it easier for us to make sure people are in compliance with sales tax because we could tie them to an existing sales tax account or make sure they understand what their sales tax requirements are and give them good information to help keep them in compliance right away.”
She said it could also set the city up for any future steps if it chooses to pursue further short-term rental monitoring or compliance enforcement.
City Manager Rorie Watt told the Empire he thinks it’s not out of the question that the city might consider placing limitations on short-term rentals in the coming years. He said that would more likely happen if the registration requirement exposed more accurate data suggesting the density of short-term rentals in the city is harming certain neighborhoods or is taking up too much of the housing stock.
He said if the city OKs the ordinance to require registration, he expects some pushback from operators and encouraged the public to get involved with the process as it proceeds in the coming weeks.
“We want to understand what’s going on with the housing market on all steps, and registration is the next step for better compliance on sales tax,” he said.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.