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Reno to consider short-term rental ordinance

By Carla O'Day
Published: Last Updated on

The Reno City Council on Wednesday directed city staff to start drafting an ordinance that addresses short-term vacation rentals, although a final vote on the issue could be up to 2 years away.

City staff said writing an ordinance of this nature would take between 18 and 24 months due to multiple meetings with stakeholders. Reno does not currently regulate short-term rentals.

Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus, who suggested the city consider an ordinance, said what was at first a nuisance issue has begun to impact affordable housing and overall housing stock.

She noticed during the last recession that people started putting properties on VRBO, formerly known as Vacation Rentals by Owner, and Airbnb. Full-time residents sometimes referred to such rental properties as nuisance or party houses.

Brekhus said she also met with consultants who told her to be careful with short-term rentals because they tend to hijack zoning code updates. The city is currently in the process of updating its zoning codes and a short-term rental ordinance is not currently part of the zoning code update process.

Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus
Council Member Jenny Brekhus.

“In the last 6 months, I’ve been hearing so much from Ward 1 constituents all over the place,” Brekhus said. “They are really starting to impact what people believe is the housing stock, the affordable housing stock.”

For example, Brekhus said she was surprised to learn that about 10 units in an older condominium complex between Virginia Lake Park and the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino were recently purchased by someone who offers them as short-term rentals. It’s changed the character of the area and displaced some tenants, she said.

Councilman Devon Reese said meetings with stakeholders that include property owners, Realtors and property management companies would take an enormous amount of city staff’s time, and the current COVID-19 pandemic might make things more difficult.

“The problem I find with governance is that it finds any way and manner to say ‘no,’ when oftentimes, we’re all trying to say ‘yes,’” Reese said.

Washoe County, along with several jurisdictions in southern Nevada and around Lake Tahoe, have either established or are working on ordinances that address short-term rentals.

Reese noted Washoe County has been working on its short-term rental ordinance for about 3 years.

Brekhus said Washoe County shouldn’t be a model because its ordinance mostly focuses on resort environments, primarily Incline Village. Reno should look at what would work in a more urban environment, she said.

Short-term refers to periods of 30 consecutive days or less. Although vacation rentals have been available in various forms for years, online platforms have led to expanded temporary lodging options and a greater awareness of the prevalence of short-term rentals

“With the rising use of short-term rentals in Reno, particularly the Midtown area, also comes impacts to neighborhoods,” a report from city staff said. “While short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods can look and feel no different than a property used in the more traditional long-term residential way, they often have higher occupancies and create impacts associated with parking and noise, causing residential areas to feel more commercial in nature, and leading to increased code enforcement complaints.”

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