This week, temporary lodging. With nearly 4 million listings world wide, AirBnB has dramatically changed how people travel. They actually list more rooms to rent than the top five hotel chains combined. But it’s not just the big hotel companies that are having to deal with online, short-term rental bookings.
It’s stirring up housing markets in small towns, too, especially in Alaska, where rental housing can be hard to come by. In Soldotna, there are nearly 200 AirBnB listings, though, that’s not the only place to book someone’s spare room for a night or two. Soldotna’s Director of Economic Development and Planning, John Czarnezki, says a work session coming up next won’t have a set agenda. It will be an opportunity for anyone interested to share concerns or ideas they have regarding temporary lodging.
“We are aware that there are potential concerns with regard to the effect short term rentals can have on the existing rental market for long term renters. We’re aware of some communities where these types of operations have had impacts on neighborhoods, depending on how many of them are popping up. They can potentially have an effect on our tourism industry, if enough of them are taking rooms away from our hotels and motels. So, there’s a number of different issues that we want to explore and find out whether we need to address these in any particular way or not. Another thing is just how many is okay? Do we need to put a limit on it, do we need to track them? What level of oversight is necessary for these? Is it an administrative permit, no permit, a conditional use permit? Just a lot of questions to put out there in front of the planning commission and the public and hear what they think.”
Right now, the city of Soldotna doesn’t define what short-term rental is.
"The only similar type of operation that we regulate would be a traditional, home-occupied B&B type operation. That’s one of the reasons we’re looking into this whole concept of short term rentals (like) AirBnB, VRBO. We don’t have anything on the books and we want to have a work session to talk about and find out if there’s issues, concerns, that we need to address.”
Other areas of the Peninsula, Homer in particular, have seen a rapid rise of AirBnB style lodging, and it hasn't gone unnoticed. The number of listings down there is about the same as the Soldotna area, but it’s left an already tight long term rental market even tighter, as homeowners stand to make a good deal more money renting spare rooms or even entire homes by the day or week instead of by the month. Vacation rentals can bring in double the dollars compared to a normal year-long lease. Czarnezki says it depends on the overall type of community you’re talking about as to how good or bad these kinds of rentals are.
“If it’s a tourism area, for example, near an entertainment district, the impacts may be very different than if it’s more of a traditional neighborhood. So, we’re just going to try to understand what the concerns are here locally and whether people are seeing impacts at this point, and if so, what they’re seeing.”
That work session is Wednesday, June 6th following the regular planning and zoning commission meeting at 5:30 at city hall in Soldotna.
This week’s number: 1,046. That’s how many oil and gas drilling rigs are operating across the US as of the end of May. At this time a year ago there were 901 active rigs. Houston oilfield services company Baker Hughes reported that 844 rigs drilled for oil and 200 for natural gas. Two were listed as miscellaneous. Among major oil- and gas-producing states, New Mexico added three rigs and Texas tacked on two. Kansas gained one. Alaska, Colorado, Louisiana, North Dakota and Ohio each shed one rig.