Des Moines Looking to Loosen Regulations on Short Term Housing Rentals

DES MOINES, Iowa - Des Moines is looking to relax some regulations for short term housing rentals, such as Airbnb and HomeAway.

A proposal would eliminate requirements for owners of short term rental properties to have lived in the unit, or limit the number of units they can operate. It would further ditch other short term rental rules, including distance between rental units, and limiting the amount of time a housing unit can be used as a rental.

The regulations were recently put in place as part of the first new city zoning ordinance in decades.

Des Moines Neighborhood Zoning Inspector SuAnn Donovan says the proposed changes came from the direction of the city council. "We had a meeting with the city council after we heard concerns from the short term rental operators," said Donovan. "We brought those concerns to the council with some ideas on these rewrites, and this is the direction that they gave to staff."

But the owners would still have to have a certificate and city Board of Adjustment approval to ensure good behavior. "If they become a problem or a nuisance to the neighborhood, we can take it back to the board for reconsideration," Donovan said. "And if they are found to be a nuisance, they could could take away the right to have a short term rental in that unit."

Des Moines currently has roughly 350 short term rental units citywide.

According to Donovan, another requirement that limits the rentals to only 10 percent of apartment complexes will likely stay in place as well. "We want to preserve affordability of units in multi-unit dwellings," said Donovan. "So if we cap it at 10 percent, then there shouldn't be a whole building being short term rentals. There'll be some opportunities for full-time renters also."

There will be a public meeting on January 6 at 5:30 p.m. at Des Moines City Hall to consider the elimination of the short term rental requirements. City staff will be doing a short presentation and then seek feedback from those in attendance. Further hearings in front of the city council are expected to take place later in January.