A new license for Airbnb-type vacation rentals in Astoria launched today.
People who already offer short-term rentals or who are interested in opening up rooms for tourists in their home must now apply for the homestay lodging permit.
The permit, approved by the City Council in December, is intended to curb illegal rentals, give people who want to offer rentals a clear path forward and make it easier for city staff to track rentals.
An application packet will be available on the city’s website with a step-by-step guide to understand the requirements. City staff plan to hold special office hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 4 p.m. specifically to address homestay lodging applications and answer questions about the new process.
City Manager Brett Estes and contract planner Heidi Dlubac expect a surge at first as people who already offer these types of rentals and follow the existing rules work with the city to obtain a license.
But Dlubac thinks it is unlikely the license will result in even more homestay lodging rentals.
“People may see the requirements and decide that’s not a process they want to pursue,” she said.
Some people have already balked at the cost. A license costs $500 and must be renewed every two years. Renewals cost $150. The city also requires a fire, life and safety inspection with any initial license application or renewal, another cost the property owner must shoulder.
Like many other cities across the country, Astoria has struggled with how to manage short-term rentals. Not all of the rentals in Astoria pay the required lodging tax or follow city guidelines and it has been hard for staff to identify properties that are out of compliance and advertise on sites like Airbnb or VRBO.
Astoria allows people to rent out one to two bedrooms in homes they own and occupy. The rental of entire houses on a short-term basis is not allowed, but happens anyway.
Dlubac was brought on to help launch the homestay lodging permit and deal with enforcement issues. She has a list of 20 illegal rentals she is pursing right now.
Estes said the city is working with Clatsop County to identify properties and will continue to track what the state is doing around the lodging tax issue.
City councilors have worried about the impact of vacation rentals on neighborhoods, arguing that the practice takes away long-term rental opportunities for locals.