Editorial: Short-term rental fee a good move

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Taos has an affordable housing crisis.

There simply aren’t enough houses or apartments or casitas available at a price most Taos residents can afford, whether to rent or buy.

What Taos does have is an abundance of short-term rentals, such as Air BnB. People are buying entire houses in Taos and turning them into lucrative short-term rental businesses. These short-term rentals drive up the cost and drive down the availability of long-term rentals

Town of Taos officials took another step toward resolving the housing problem Tuesday (April 10) by voting to approve a fee on short-term rentals.

The council went a step further, approving an annual fee on short-term rentals with a portion of that going toward an affordable housing fund.

The council approved a $300 annual fee on short-term rentals beginning next year. After discussion, the council also approved an additional $100 annual fee on property owners who turn entire houses or apartments into short-term rentals. That money will go into the fund for affordable housing projects.

People who are only renting out a room or two in their primary residence will not pay the additional fee.

The new fees are not exorbitant. Based on the daily price charged on most short-term Taos rental properties, the owners can pay the annual fee after one or two weekends of renters.

The short-term rental fee is an example of what can be accomplished when elected officials work together, think through the consequences of their policies and get a little creative.

Best of all in this situation, the vote to approve the fee was unanimous. That’s proof our town council can work together, despite being at odds over other issues. We hope they find more innovative projects and regulations they can work on together.

Taos County, like the town, already charges lodgers tax on short-term rentals. We think Taos County should look at instituting an annual fee similar to the town’s on those rentals, and then use the money toward affordable housing programs in outlying areas.

If the town and county are looking for innovative ways to help build and fund affordable housing, they could look at the model created by the nonprofit Homewise program in Santa Fe. For decades the program has helped finance affordable homes, taught people about homeownership and helped them finance houses. Perhaps the fee from the short-term rentals could subsidize a grant writer who can look for federal, state and nonprofit funds for housing and homeownership programs.

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