Affordable housing concerns prompt Juneau Assembly to provide update on short-term rental market

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(Public domain photo courtesy of Open Grid Scheduler)

If you browse websites like Airbnb and Vrbo for overnight rentals in Juneau, there are dozens and dozens of listings. Many have only a handful of reviews or none at all, suggesting they have only recently come onto the market as vacation rentals.

City officials fear these listings will eat away at Juneau’s already very limited housing stock.

On Monday, the Juneau Assembly approved spending $20,000 to hire a third-party company to collect data on this market.

“We view these third-party services primarily as recognition,” City Chief Finance Officer Jeff Rogers said at a meeting of the Assembly Finance Committee last month. “They snoop around, scour the web, look at rentals, try to see how often those rentals are rented, what the approximate rates are. There is work that most of these companies do behind the scenes to align a rental listing with a plot and potentially with a landlord.

In the latest business climate survey commissioned by the Southeastern Conference, business leaders in the region identified the lack of affordable housing as the biggest impediment to economic growth. It contributes directly to labor shortages.

The Assembly also considered requiring operators of short-term rentals to register their properties with the city. Together, these are perhaps the first steps the Assembly is taking to limit Airbnbs and similar rentals.

Assemblyman Wade Bryson thinks the flurry of new short-term rental listings could be a temporary occurrence, caused by this weekend’s Ironman Alaska event.

“I think waiting until after Ironman will give us a better understanding of what the community will really be like,” he said. “Do people like it? Is this going to be a real problem that continues to grow? Or are people really like, ‘Oh my God, that wasn’t as great as I thought it was. It’s not great to bring a stranger into your personal home and let them use your stuff for a week. ‘”

Bryson urged patience.

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