PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles City Council has directed staff to draft an ordinance that would place a moratorium on new short-term rental housing in the city and provide a way to both enforce the moratorium and deal will existing illegal short-term rentals.
The proposed ordinance would focus specifically on short-term rentals that rent out the whole house or housing unit and are available for more than 30 days out of the year.
The recommendation for a moratorium was brought to the council during Tuesday night’s public comment period and picked up for discussion as a late item on the council’s agenda by council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin.
“While we have done an excellent job without policy work allowing for infill development, we have not done enough work to ensure that the new development is going to workforce housing, because we have no limits on the amount of square footage of housing we are willing to give up to short-term housing,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
Schromen-Wawrin said he would like to structure the moratorium to allow for individual room rental inside a home as well as allow homeowners who are residents to rent out their homes while they are away.
He also put forward a recommendation for the city to develop a short-term rental licensing system and penalties for people who violate the moratorium and are currently violating the law by having short-term rentals in zones that do not allow them.
“We need to do this already because we need to decide on an appropriate penalty for people violating the current short-term rental code by operating a short-term rental where it is illegal in the city,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
According to the city website, short-term rentals can be located only in high- and medium-density residential areas and some commercial areas.
Data from sites like Airbnb and VRBO indicated that there are more than 600 active vacation rentals in the Port Angeles area, with more than 200 in city limits.
“As we heard earlier, we are not doing anything about that at this point, so we are letting illegal short-term rentals take away housing stock,” Schromen-Wawrin said.
Schromen-Wawrin then made a motion to direct staff to draft the moratorium, which was seconded by council member Navarra Carr and unanimously passed by the city council.
The initial motion requested that staff come back to the council’s next meeting, but Mayor Kate Dexter amended the motion to strike that request to allow more time for staff to research and get back to the council with an ordinance that meets the request.
Carr noted that many of the homes that are for sale in Port Angeles are listed on real estate sites, like Zillow, as investment properties.
“What that tells me is that the real estate agents in our community are exacerbating this problem and letting people know they don’t want new residents; they want short-term rentals,” Carr said.
Carr also noted that many of the homes that are bought up to be turned into investment properties are starter homes, at $300,000 or less, that could be made available to families trying to buy their first homes.
“I think it is valuable for Realtors and people purchasing investment properties or turning their home into one, to know they’re flagrantly defying the law,” Carr said.
“I think what’s happening now is people simply don’t know there are areas in our community where you can’t have short-term rentals and I think they don’t know because we haven’t told them.”
Though the motion had unanimous support, there was some concern from council members about how this moratorium would be enforced, something for the staff to consider.
Deputy Mayor Brendan Meyer supported the moratorium but noted that housing development in the city is still a major concern.
“We could ban all short-term rentals and we would still have a development issue,” Meyer said. “I think it’s easy to scapegoat short-term rentals because we haven’t been getting building and development here as we should have been for a long time.”
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.