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Missoula City Council shoots down measure to ban tourist homes

The Missoula City Council rejected a measure to ban tourist homes in residential districts on Monday
Missoula City Council
Posted at 8:27 AM, Feb 07, 2024

MISSOULA — The Missoula City Council on Monday shot down a measure to ban tourist homes in residential districts, saying code reform will go further in permitting more housing types and a wider array of business in such areas.

The measure failed on a 10-2 vote with only council members Kristen Jordan and Daniel Carlino in support.

“Right now, our land-use codes are blocking housing all over town,” Carlino said. “If you all want to leave us to the free market and don't want to regulate short-term rentals, then we must allow more housing to be built by changing our land use and zoning codes.”

Efforts to change land use and zoning codes began last year in what the city refers to as code reform. The work will cover a range of policies, from subdivision to land use. It will also align zoning with the city's growth policy, something that's been an issue of contention for years.

Among other things, Carlino has said tourist homes are permitted to operate as a business in areas zoned as residential. He said other types of businesses aren't given such leeway and, because of it, tourist homes should be banned.

But city staff and most members of City Council said code reform could allow more businesses to operate in residential areas, including markets and coffee shops. They opposed a ban on tourist homes in favor of letting code reform play out.

If done right, such reforms could address a number of issues, they said.

“We're doing code reform, which covers a lot, and we need to spend time and attention on it to get it right,” said council member Gwen Jones. “I really don't agree with bringing one-off items when we're in the middle of a holistic process. The focus is on code reform and doing all that well to get the intended results of more housing.”

The city recently identified 587 short-term rentals in Missoula, which represents 1.5% of all housing units. But only a handful of those rentals had registered with the city.

While most are opposed to banning tourist homes, they do support enforcement of existing regulations around the industry. But registering a tourist home with the city has been described as laborious and unnecessarily difficult.

The city is working to streamline the process and educate the industry to bring more operators into compliance with city regulations.

“That's something we can look at going forward,” said council member Bob Campbell.