The Columbia Falls City Council will hold a meeting on short term rentals during a workshop at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 22.
Short term rentals, also called vacation rentals, have been surging in popularity in recent years as vacationers opt to stay in homes rather than hotels and campgrounds.
The number of vacation rentals available in the Columbia Falls area has risen sharply in the past few years, according to figures provided by AirDNA, a firm that tracks the vacation rental industry.
In Columbia Falls (59912 Zip code), for example, in July 2019, the number of available listings was 293, with 270 having at least one night booked that month.
By July 2022, that number had rocketed to 595 available listings, with 563 booked.
In 2023, the numbers were even higher. June 2023 saw 650 listings, with 592 booked.
The Hungry Horse News reported those figures back in August. City officials noted, however, that the number of short-term rentals was much lower inside the city limits according to its records.
The newspaper requested numbers from AirDNA for just the city limits, but received no reply despite multiple requests.
The city has previously said it has about 80 inside the city limits.
But more recently homeowners have complained about short-term rentals popping up in neighborhoods that are traditionally singe-family year-round homes, either through direct letters to city officials, newspapers, social media, or all three.
Wildcat Drive resident Pat Malone recently wrote a letter to the editor objecting to a short-term rental being proposed in that subdivision, which is near Ruder Elementary.
“I’ve been a property manager for 40 years with great success,” Malone said. “The reason is I highly ‘vet’ our renters (background, employment, criminal checks and references). None of that happens with short term rentals. As long as someone has a valid credit card, a sexual or violent offender, pimp or drug dealer can rent that property. For these and other reasons, I can’t find a single town that is not moving to limit and/or restrict further short term rentals. Don’t we, our children and our neighbor’s deserve better? If yes, contact the Columbia Falls Council and express your concern,” Malone recently wrote.
The city council is expected to review its current codes at the workshop. The meeting is open to the public.