Des Moines Residents Voice Support, Concern for Proposed Changes to Short-Term Rental Rules

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DES MOINES, Iowa — The owners of short-term rental homes in Des Moines such as Airbnbs could soon have some new rules to follow.

Monday’s Des Moines City Council meeting was overflowing with residents voicing their support and concerns for proposed amendments to the ordinance governing short-term rental homes.

Back in September, the Des Moines City Council passed a city ordinance that placed a lot of restrictions on short-term rental property owners. One of those restrictions is that those property owners are required to live in their rentals at least 275 days out of the year, which makes it difficult for them to own more than one property.

“Since the zoning code passed, myself and a number of other homeowners have been working very hard to get the city council to see it our way, and we finally have a compromise on the table that I think addresses everybody’s concerns,” said Dr. Brad Podray, an Airbnb owner in Des Moines.

The amendments were introduced for the first time on Monday night’s city council meeting. Presented by community development director, Chris Johansen those compromises include removing the requirement of property owners to live in their rentals. It also caps the number of units allowed to be short-term rental properties in an apartment building to 10 percent of the total number of units.

The proposed amendments would still require vendors to get a rental certificate and approval from the zoning board of adjustment in order to operate within city limits.

Dr. Podray talked about what that approval process would look like.

“The licensing process on the table right now requires two things: a regular rental certificate just like any landlord would have and a second totally separate process called a conditional use permit, where the homeowner has to present themselves in front of a board and prove why they should receive this certificate. Local neighbors are informed via postcards that someone is going to start this business in their neighborhood. It’s a perfect solution to the problem because now we have to undergo this extra level of scrutiny to do Airbnbs, and now we are forced to do neighborhood outreach to inform the local people about what we’re doing,” said Dr. Podray.

Des Moines residents also voiced their concerns about the proposed changes at Monday’s council meeting. Some neighbors who live in residential zones are concerned about living near a property being used commercially. Others voiced concerns over noise levels, and constant coming and going of strangers in the neighborhood.

Those who spoke positively of short term rentals spoke on how they provide primary or secondary incomes in their households. Several residents who spoke up also work as cleaners for several properties and say it provides a good source of income.

“This is a relatively new phenomena. Everyone has been operating under the radar and now we are trying to bring it into compliance of some form and I think that right now I don’t know if I feel we are hitting it on the mark 100 percent,” said City Council member Connie Boesen.

City council members asked that more work be done to make the amendments more balanced. The next open discussion is scheduled for May 18.

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