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How many Airbnbs are 'taking away' from Vermonters? It's complicated

A short-term rental at the end of Gorham Drive has caused a ruckus in the neighborhood. The conflict is just one of many Airbnb-related debates playing out in communities around the state.
Josh Crane
Vermont Public
A short-term rental at the end of Gorham Drive, in the Northeast Kingdom town of Kirby, has caused a ruckus in the neighborhood. The conflict is just one of many Airbnb-related debates playing out in communities around the state.

Christiana Martin wants to know how much short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs, are exacerbating Vermont’s housing crisis. Brave Little State surveys the data, and finds out how communities across the state are responding to a growing industry.

Brave Little State is Vermont Public’s listener-driven journalism show. In each episode, we answer a question about Vermont that’s been asked — and voted on — by you, our audience. Because we want our journalism to be more inclusive, more transparent and more fun.

In this episode, reporter Josh Crane answers a question about short-term rentals from listener Christiana Martin.

“What is the status of Airbnb in Vermont? How many units are taking away from locals? And what can be done about it?”

Note: Our show is made for the ear! For the full experience, we recommend pressing play on the audio posted here. We also provide a written version of the episode, as well as additional data and visuals, below.

Subscribe to Brave Little State for free, so you never miss an episode:


Burlington-based singer Django Soulo jamming out on his porch with friends.
Django Koenig
Django Koenig, left, jamming with neighbors Liz Beatty & Ben Rodgers on his front porch, shortly before one of the neighborhood’s annual “Decatur Fest” block parties.

Decatur Street

Allow me to introduce you to Django Koenig.

“I'm born and raised in Plainfield, Vermont, outside of Montpelier.”

By day, he works for, doing tech support. By night, he tours around Vermont under the moniker Django Soulo, playing what he calls “Americana soul.”

He likes to sing songs about his sweet rescue dog, Helen:

Little dear with velvet ears, free us from our fears. When we hold you near. When we hold you near…

He recorded those lyrics in his old apartment in Burlington’s historic Old North End, on Decatur Street.

This is Helen, Django's dog.
Django Koenig
Django Koenig and Alix Lindenbaum adopted Helen, a husky-lab mix, shortly after moving into an apartment on Decatur Street in Burlington’s Old North End.

Django says life on Decatur was pretty ideal for him and his wife, Alix. It was their first home without roommates. They got married while living there. And the residents of the street formed a tight-knit community — including a lot of impromptu jams on the front porch.

“[It was] exactly what I would want out of a street in the Old North End in Burlington,” Django says. “They have a festival there, Decatur Fest, every year.”

But Django, Alix and Helen no longer live on Decatur Street. Their lease ended last August. A few months earlier, the property management company had let them know they wouldn’t be able to renew, citing the need for “major electrical work.”

"It did not feel good,” he says. “And I will also say there was a little light bulb that went off in my head because of the the other incidents that I experienced with them within that apartment building.”

The year before, in 2021, Django and Alix’s building was sold to Five Seasons Property Management. And the “incident” Django’s referring to happened a few months after the new landlords took over. When they converted one of the four units in the building from a long-term rental to a short-term one.

“They turned the apartment upstairs that was next to ours into an Airbnb,” Django says. “And that kind of caught me off guard. So it wasn't exactly a welcoming feeling that we were getting.”

Once that happened, he kinda figured: His apartment was probably next.

Django and Alix got lucky: They managed to find a new place in South Burlington. But Django kept tabs on their old Decatur Street home. And he didn't have to wait long to see what became of it.

“Yeah, within, like, a week — I want to say a week and a half or so, maybe two weeks — I was sent the Airbnb link from one of our neighbors.”

Django Koenig mixing some music in his former apartment on Decatur Street in Burlington's Old North End.
Django Koenig
Django Koening does some recording in the living room of his old apartment on Decatur Street in Burlington. The unit is now a short-term rental, replete with pink furniture and pink shag rugs.

I reached out to Five Seasons directly, but they did not respond in time for this story.

From Django’s perspective, it wasn’t just that they turned his apartment into an Airbnb. It was the specific way they updated his old place: The company did more than just electrical work. And the changes are summed up in the description of the apartment on “plush, pink ambiance.” Pictures of the Airbnb show hot pink bedding, a pink couch, pink shag rugs. Nightstands, shower curtain, lamps, desk — all pink.

“Yeah, it just has a pretty hideous look,” Django says. “Kind of looks like what a Muppet might live in, I think, potentially. Yeah, I think Miss Piggy would be very happy there.”

And visitors seem to be happy there, too. 4.76 stars and lots of glowing reviews. Which all support the message spelled out by the neon pink sign hanging on one of the walls: “good vibes.”

It’s a sentiment Django does not share.

“I was very angry when I saw that posting; [I] felt betrayed,” he says. “I felt like … I'd been lied to. It … definitely seems like unless they just all of a sudden had a change of heart [and] decided to go the Airbnb route. It seems very clear that they had been planning it all along.”

It’s not a secret that Vermont has a housing crisis. Including the lowest rental vacancy rate in the country.

Housing experts and town officials around the state are trying to figure out how much short-term rentals factor into that crisis. And then there are the other effects of a growing short-term rental industry — whether they’re emerging in a quiet residential neighborhood in the Northeast Kingdom, or one of Vermont’s vacation hotspots, such as Stowe. And short-term rentals force us to ask tough questions about who we are, and what we value.

Meet our question-asker

Christiana Martin is today’s winning question-asker. At least, we think she is.

“Yeah ... I wrote the question. I vaguely remember doing that,” she says.

Christiana has three kids under the age of six, which may explain the fuzzy memory. And also her reaction a few months ago when she voted for her own question in a Brave Little Statevoting round — without realizing she herself had asked it.

“[I] thought, ‘Oh, that's a good question,’” she recalls.

I met Christiana in her classroom in central Vermont. She teaches high school social studies. And she does remember, vividly, what piqued her interest in short-term rentals.

Winning question-asker Christiana Martin, pretending to teach in her social studies classroom in Central Vermont. After staying in a Londonderry Airbnb with friends last year, she asked, “What is the status of Airbnb in Vermont? How many units are taking away from locals and what can be done about it?”
Josh Crane
Vermont Public
Winning question-asker Christiana Martin, in her social studies classroom in Central Vermont. After staying in a Londonderry Airbnb with friends last year, she asked, “What is the status of Airbnb in Vermont? How many units are taking away from locals and what can be done about it?”

She says she and her friends gathered for a vacation in Londonderry, and rented an Airbnb.

“We rented this big house because we all have little kids. And we wanted to be able to put our kids to bed and then, like, hang out,” she says. “And you sort of wondered, like, is us being here in this Airbnb — does that mean that somebody doesn't get to live here?"

So Christiana posed this question to Brave Little State:

“What is the status of Airbnb in Vermont? How many units are taking away from locals? And what can be done about it?”

There are a lot of other questions you could ask about short-term rentals. Like, who benefits from them? Who gets to stay in cute little mountain getaways and fancy vacation homes? And who gets to invest in those properties in the first place?

But Christiana is wondering less about the people involved in these transactions, and more about the impact short-term rentals have on the surrounding communities.

“I was like, ‘Oh, well, what would it be like to live next to an Airbnb?’” she adds. “You know, we are nice neighbors. But I've heard stories of, you know, people having crazy parties and stuff. And the people who live around these Airbnbs, like, they don't know who to call.”

Christian also wonders, what exactly is the scale of this issue?

“How many [short-term rentals] are there? Are they here to stay? Is it changing? And then the ‘what can be done about it’ part of the question is like, you know, do we need laws to make this better for locals?”

So, basically, Christiana wants to know about the data. And what the data says we should do. We’ll get there.

But this isn’t all about numbers. Even the introduction of a single Airbnb in your town can cause a ruckus.

That’s what happened in Kirby, a town of about 400 in the Northeast Kingdom.


Gorham Drive: 'A slice of heaven'

Kirby is a town of about 400 in the Northeast Kingdom, a few miles from Burke Mountain ski resort. I pay a visit to Gorham Drive, a dead-end dirt road with an Airbnb property at the end of it. A group of neighbors have banded together to raise concerns about the disturbances and negative impacts that they say the rental has brought upon their neighborhood.

I’d initially contacted one of the residents on Gorham Drive for an interview. By the time I show up, there are four people waiting for me, sitting around the kitchen island. There’s Susannah Keller, an operating room nurse in St. Johnsbury; Barrett Adams, a local contractor; Kim Adams, Barrett’s wife, and a teacher.

We’re all sitting in the Adams’ house. And the last to join is Ida Sargent, a former Olympian in cross-country skiing who now works as a school administrator at Burke Mountain Academy.

Pretty soon the conversation turns to what seems like one of the more popular topics for residents of Gorham Drive: the road. It’s very steep. There was conversation about whether four-wheel drive was enough to navigate the road in winter, or if studded snow tires were also required. The neighbors joked about abandoning their cars to walk, and giving one another rides.

Gorham Drive is a private residential road in Kirby, a small Northeast Kingdom town. It’s a few miles away from Burke Mountain Ski resort.
Josh Crane
Vermont Public
Gorham Drive is a private residential road in Kirby, a small Northeast Kingdom town. It’s a few miles away from Burke Mountain Ski resort.

The houses on Gorham Drive are pretty spread out. And the residents I’m talking to clearly value privacy. Though they also cherish the community they have on the road.

“It's kind of like a family,” Kim Adams says. “You know, during the summertime, we'll have campfires and invite each other over, last minute get-togethers. It just is a little slice of heaven. And many of us feel that that has been taken away from us.”

They feel it was taken away from them by a man named Todd Glowa.

I spoke to Todd on the phone for almost an hour. He didn’t want to do an official interview. He said he’s bad at public speaking, and that the Gorham Drive neighbors already don’t like him. He doesn’t want to piss them off even more.

But he did give me permission to share a little background: Todd lives about an hour away in Wolcott. He started a landscaping business when he was 16. He’s almost 50 now, and he sees short-term rentals as a way to maintain an income without as much physical labor. He originally bought the property at the end of Gorham Drive in 2013 because he thought it would be a good business investment, given its proximity to Burke Mountain ski resort.

After finishing some renovations, he listed it on Airbnb and VRBO.

And his customers give the property rave reviews: Five stars. And over a hundred happy comments touting the breathtaking views. The bonfire pit. The recent renovations. It could all be yours for $289 a night. And you can bring nine of your closest friends, which is a detail that irks the year-round neighbors.

“It's advertised for 10 people staying there. There's beds packed in the room. It's more than an average number of beds you'd have in a normal house,” Kim Adams says.

The controversial short-term rental at the end of Gorham Drive in Kirby. Neighbors’ grievances range from out-of-control parties and speeding cars to an absentee owner. Meanwhile, guests have described their experience as a “quiet, peaceful escape” and “an excellent spot.”
Josh Crane
Vermont Public
The controversial short-term rental at the end of Gorham Drive in Kirby. Neighbors’ grievances range from out-of-control parties and speeding cars to an absentee owner. Meanwhile, guests have described their experience as a “quiet, peaceful escape” and “an excellent spot.”

“It's like, ‘Oh, must be Friday. I'm expecting at least three more vehicles behind that one to go up. Oh, looks like they're headed down for the ride. That's great. Oh, coming back up. Oh, somebody forgot the beer.’ You know, that's how it goes," says Susannah Keller. “You know, cars that couldn't make it up the hill at 11 o'clock at night in my driveway with intoxicated people throwing up. Like, that's just a standard experience.”

I heard a litany of other complaints too — Airbnb guests driving too fast. Spinning out and getting stuck. “They’re doing 40 miles an hour up the road, or they're stuck in a ditch,” Barrett Adams adds.

All of which leads to more road maintenance. And since Gorham Drive is a private road, the extra work, and extra expense, falls to the residents.

Gorham Drive in Kirby is very steep and often slick due to snow or mud. Residents know to use snow tires and 4WD vehicles, though they say out-of-staters visiting the Airbnb often get stuck after failing to conquer the climb in 2WD.
Josh Crane
Vermont Public
Gorham Drive in Kirby is very steep and often slick due to snow or mud. Residents know to use snow tires and 4WD vehicles, though they say out-of-staters visiting the Airbnb often get stuck after failing to conquer the climb in 2WD.

“The amount of maintenance that I have to do is, you know, exponentially grown,” Barrett says.

Snowmobiles cutting across private property. Littering. A constant stream of lost guests.

“And the people are nice. They're always apologetic, but they don't know!” Kim says. “And then it's new people, every weekend, that don't know.”

One time, Kim says guests looking for the Airbnb almost ran over her 5-year-old daughter who was riding her bike in the driveway. Barrett remembers a night when he heard gunfire.

“And I'm a hunter, you know, and I have no problem with that kind of stuff. But I could hear bullets zinging through the trees right above our garage. So, anyways, I took my truck up there and went to go let them know what was going on. Like, you need to stop this. And there was at least a dozen guys from down country that were hammered. They were drinking beer and they had a handgun and they were just blasting it off into the woods.”

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A few days after getting my first earful of grievances on Gorham Drive, I went back for round two. This time, to meet Ben Mirkin, another neighbor.

I quickly learned that Ben shares a lot of the same concerns as everyone else I spoke to. People driving too fast. People parking in his yard. People puking in his yard. Perhaps in that order.

But then I learned something that made me reconsider everything I knew about this whole situation: Until last year, Ben was the chair of the Kirby Planning Committee and Zoning Board. It's the arm of town governance responsible for regulating short-term rentals.

It made me wonder how Ben used his power as chair of the board. What did he do to try to get the party house on his road under control?

“I wasn't willing to do anything, because I felt like it felt biased because it was in my backyard,” he says. “And I didn't want to make a decision that could put the town at risk of being sued because of something personal going on on my road.”

It's one thing to identify a problem. It's another to find a solution. Especially when you live in a tiny town where everyone knows each other.

That said, Ben agrees with his neighbors that issues with the Airbnb have only gotten worse in the past year.


Short-term rentals, by the numbers

There’s actually some data to back this up. Demand for Vermont short-term rentals has increased by almost 150% since 2019. This is according to AirDNA, a company that researches vacation rentals. That means, in general, short-term rentals like the one on Gorham Drive are busier than ever.

Over that same timeframe, the total number of short-term rental listings in Vermont has increased by 20%. The Vermont Housing Finance Agency runs a website called It shows that in December 2022, what are called “whole home” short-term rentals in Vermont numbered about 10,166.

“It's interesting, because the top 10 towns for short-term rentals are also the top 10 towns for vacation homes in Vermont. And you know, most of those are right next to ski ski resorts,” says Leslie Black-Plumeau, the community relations and research manager at the Vermont Housing Finance Agency.

Leslie was the primary author of the latest Vermont Housing Needs Assessment, published in 2020. The state commissions one of these every five years and uses it for planning purposes. And Leslie first started to take short-term rentals seriously while working on this project.

“We do have such a limited supply of homes here in Vermont, particularly year round homes for residents. And so given that short supply, every little bit that is missing from the housing stock is important,” she says.

Vermont’s housing crisis has only gotten worse since then. And there’s no shortage of data to illustrate this.

“It simply is true that we have very, very little vacant year-round housing right now, like seriously low vacancy rates. We have the lowest rental vacancy rate in the nation,” Leslie says. “So we are really, really, really in an extreme situation.”

In 2022, the median price of a home in Vermont increased by 15%, the largest annual bump since at least 1988. Not to mention that a recent report revealed that Vermont now has the second highest rate of homelessness in the nation, per capita. Behind only California. Between 2020 and 2022, the amount of homelessness in Vermont increased by 151%.

These numbers are overwhelming. And, they show us just how much Vermonters are struggling.

“It is unconscionable that we as a society are not providing enough housing for all the people who live in our communities,” says Emily Rosenbaum.

“It is unconscionable that people are out living in tents, that we have year-long waiting lists for affordable housing, that people can have jobs and still not be able — full-time jobs! — and still not be able to afford a place to live. This is unconscionable. And we as a society have to answer for that.”

Emily is the initiative director for a grant aimed at reducing barriers to employment in Lamoille County. Barriers like housing.

"We’re having a hard time filling shifts at a lot of the businesses," she says. "And a lot of that has to do with the fact that people are having to drive from an hour away in order to work here."

Lamoille County is like the Airbnb capital of Vermont. It’s the area of the state that’s seen the most dramatic increase in short-term rentals over the past few years. Mostly in and around Stowe, a big ski resort town.

“And there was a feeling that the short-term rental market and the incredible increase in Lamoille County of short-term rentals was affecting our access to housing. And we didn't really know whether that was true.”

This gets back to Christiana Martin’s question, about how many short-term rental units are “taking away from locals.” Christiana, I’m sorry to report that no one knows for sure.

“We don't know whether it's somebody's home that is listed when they are out of town on occasion, or if it's a guest suite in somebody's house that they sometimes use for family and friends…And then, we know there are some [homes] that would have been year-round rental units,” says Leslie Black-Plumeau, who worked on that state housing report. “So, it's really a mix of uses. And it's really hard to tell how many of each pot of uses are in our mix right now in Vermont.”

Emily Rosenbaum, of Lamoille County, adds: “I will say that we are certainly seeing a very quick rise in the number of units that are short-term rentals. And we are not seeing that same rise in the number of overall units in our community. So it would stand to reason that at least some of those units that are short-term rentals initially were other houses.”

But standing to reason is not the same as knowing. A point that Emily is keenly aware of.

“We realized if we didn't know that, our municipalities didn't know that either. And that we wanted our municipalities to take smart, careful action based on what was actually going on in the community, not based on what people guess was going on in the community. So we decided that it was an opportunity for us to provide that by doing this survey.”

The survey results were published earlier this year. And they offer a much more detailed picture of short-term rentals in Lamoille County than the statewide data can give. They also challenge some common narratives about short-term rentals and those who own them.

Like how only 8% of short-term rental owners who responded said their unit was previously a long-term rental occupied by someone else. Over half said their short-term rental was previously their own primary residence, or their own vacation home.

Also surprising? The survey found that short-term rentals are helping many residents afford to live there.

"One of the most interesting questions in the survey was the question of 'what do you do with the income?'" Emily says.

Forty-two percent of respondents said they use the income to supplement the cost of living in Lamoille County. Thirty-nine percent said they use the income for insurance, medical costs or automotive costs.

“I really had no idea that this many people were using short term rentals to be able to afford to live in the community,” Emily Rosenbaum says. “And I thought it was a really important thing, because that is not the narrative we hear.”

We can’t assume these results would be consistent across the whole state. But statewide data suggests most short-term rental operators are small-scale, rather than people with Airbnb empires. According to Transparent, a vacation rental data company, 93% of short-term rental owners in Vermont operated just one or two listings in January 2023. On the flip side, the other 7% of owners with more than two listings accounted for almost half of all listings in the state.

So, there’s a small number of owners who have an outsized impact on Vermont’s short-term rental landscape. And, therefore, an outsized impact on the narrative about short-term rental owners.

“It really hurts me to see people judging one another so fiercely,” says Julie Marks, the founder of the Vermont Short-Term Rental Alliance, or VSTRA. As an Airbnb owner herself.

Julie runs three short-term rentals in Vermont. And she knows that this is the type of information that makes a lot of folks quick to judge.

“To make these assumptions that people who are engaging in this industry are doing it for the wrong reason. You just don't know. Every single person who's renting out their home is doing it for their own reason.”

Julie’s got two listings at her home in Jericho. So, owner-occupied. The third is a ski condo in Stowe. Which she says was previously a dilapidated inn. And she used to run a short-term rental in Burlington — more on that later.

“And the added income of short-term renting for just six months is what we needed to pay the taxes and repaint the siding and take care of a 200-year-old house, which needs constant and very expensive maintenance,” she says.

Julie says there’s an important piece of the short-term rental debate that often gets overlooked. She thinks it helps explain where a lot of the anti-Airbnb sentiment is coming from: NIMBY-ism. The idea that those who oppose short-term rentals do so purely because it’s inconvenient for them. Or they’re biased against “outsiders.”

“NIMBY-ism is alive and well in our communities,” Julie says. “And we just have this long-standing history of being a vacation rental state. You know, we're second in the nation only to Maine for the highest number of vacation homes in the country. And that is not new. That predates the launch of Airbnb.”

Julie’s right: Vermont has been a vacation destination for a long time. Tourism is a major industry here. And Julie says that short-term rental platforms like Airbnb and VRBO are just the latest innovation in Vermont’s tourism economy.

Leslie Black-Plumeau from the Vermont Housing Finance Agency made a related point: that short-term rentals simply aren’t as prevalent as many people think. For decades, vacation homes have made up around 17% of Vermont’s total housing stock. Short-term rentals don’t come close. They make up just 3%.

"But, increasing and, you know, definitely a concern," Leslie says.

There's a gray area over the scale of that concern. Remember, Vermont has around 10,000 short-term rentals right now that take up an entire home. But Leslie’s focused on a different number. The estimate that Vermont needs to add 30 to 40,000 more year-round homes to make up for years of underbuilding, and to keep up with growing demand of people who want to live here.

And this gray area over the level of concern about short-term rentals — it’s a big reason why figuring out how to regulate them is so hard.

Attempts at regulation

This brings us back to Gorham Drive in Kirby. Where Ben Mirkin is telling me about the Airbnb story playing out on his road. Yes, he’s experienced the negative impacts of the neighboring Airbnb. But he also spent five years chairing the town’s Zoning Board, intentionally not doing anything about the rental.

“It was brought up a number of times, and I just didn't want to touch it. I was afraid of a lawsuit to the town, and I didn't want to be responsible for that.”

Ben Mirkin lives on Gorham Drive. Guests of the short-term rental down the road have puked on his property, parked on his lawn and been a general nuisance. Over a five-year stint as Chair of the Kirby Planning Committee & Zoning Board, however, Ben did not pursue short-term rental regulation, fearing a lawsuit.
Josh Crane
Vermont Public
Ben Mirkin lives on Gorham Drive. He says guests of the short-term rental down the road have puked on his property, parked on his lawn and been a general nuisance. Over a five-year stint as Chair of the Kirby Planning Committee & Zoning Board, however, Ben did not pursue short-term rental regulation, fearing a lawsuit.

Was it hard for him to be a member of both camps?

“Yeah, it was. It was difficult. I also have, throughout this, tried to maintain clear communication with Todd.”

Just a refresher: Todd is the owner of the Airbnb. He lives an hour away.

“Like, I don't see him as purely evil. I see him as someone who's trying to make a living for himself and trying to set himself and his family up for retirement,” Ben says. “And I get that we just happen to be on the road that he bought that property on, that he's using as a business. And it's our residence, whereas he has a business and that creates a conflict."

Ben stepped down from the Zoning Board in 2022. Later that year, the new board started holding public meetings, led by new board chair Marty Etter.

“We had held several meetings throughout the summer to get input from the townspeople about, what do they feel the town needs to do? What are the changes they want to see in the regulations?” Marty told me.

Kirby Town Hall. Kirby’s a town of about 400 near Burke Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom.
Josh Crane
Vermont Public
Kirby Town Hall. Kirby’s a town of about 400 near Burke Mountain in the Northeast Kingdom.

The meetings stretched from June through the fall. Many of the Gorham Drive residents I spoke to showed up to share their concerns about the Airbnb.

“We held several meetings,” Marty Etter, the new board chair, said, “and generally, the feedback was favorable to allowing it as a conditional use.”

Conditional use. It’s basically a very mild attempt at regulation. It allows something to occur, but places conditions on it. Other things that fall into conditional use in Kirby include campgrounds, religious facilities, and day care.

It all culminated in November 2022, on election day. The town voted 74-32 to approve the conditional use process for short-term rentals.

So. Short-term rental regulation in Kirby? Check.

But the work, and the debate, didn’t stop there. Because not everyone agreed on what conditions to place on these kind of properties.

“It was incredibly contentious,” Ben Mirkin recalls.

Kirby, of course, is not alone.

“I think it's kind of like a nationwide moment where the short-term rental market is really exploding, and there's not a lot of regulation. So everyone's kind of just trying to figure it out for the first time,” says Seven Days reporter Rachel Hellman.

“I mostly cover opportunities and challenges in Vermont small towns, which is kind of funny to me, because that's every town and everything's an opportunity or a challenge,” Rachel says.

Recently, she contacted a whole bunch of town offices around the state to ask about short-term rental regulation.

“It was a can of worms,” she says. “As soon as I reached out to one town, they said, ‘Oh, you should talk with these towns.’ And a lot of towns were quick to say they didn't think there was a one-size-fits-all sort of answer to this, because it really depends on what each town wants."

So, here’s a very brief rundown of what Rachel learned. Think of it like short-term rental regulation speed dating.

First, towns with a very light touch, regulation-wise.

“There [were] a number, like Killington and Chester, that have opted for requiring short-term rentals to register with the town as kind of a first step intended to monitor the number of rentals,” Rachel says.

Kirby would probably fall into this bucket, too — conditional use is different from a registry, but a similarly moderate approach.

Next are the heavy-hitters. Big regulation.

“I think one of the most robust regulations I saw was in Woodstock,” Rachel says. “So properties in the village of Woodstock are allowed to rent out rooms no more than six times per calendar year, with the exception of foliage season, which they kind of earmarked as a time when there's a lot of tourism across Vermont. And Woodstock even created an incentive for landlords to long-term rent versus short-term, like they would get a stipend. But when I spoke with them, no one had used it.”

And then, there’s the regulation that’s gotten the most attention so far: Burlington. “The more comprehensive regulations I've seen [are] in Burlington, of course, and they have to be owner-occupied.”

After years of heated debate in the city council, Burlington passed a new short-term rental ordinance. It created a short-term rental registry. And it set up owner-occupancy requirements — meaning that in most cases, you’ve got to live in the property you rent out. This disqualified up to 80% of the city’s short-term rentals at the time it passed.

Remember Julie Marks of the Vermont Short-Term Rental Alliance? She used to run a short-term unit in Burlington that is no longer allowed under the new ordinance. It’s a unit she and her family use from time to time, but none of them live there permanently.

Now, Julie has to decide whether to keep the unit for personal use, or transition it to a long-term rental.

And Julie worries about the impact of the new ordinance.

“I do have concerns that a lot of the policies that were put in place will have unintended consequences," Julie says. "One being a reduction in rental properties that are available in the city, and the other being an increase in the cost of living and visiting Burlington in general."

The actual enforcement of the new rules, though, has been slow going, according to a February 15 report from Burlington Permitting & Inspections, the department tasked with implementation and rollout.

One of the biggest hurdles to implementation has been the low number of units becoming compliant with the ordinance voluntarily. Some of which is due to confusion among short-term rental hosts about the new rules. Also, the ordinance allows hosts without “a path to comply with the newly-adopted regulations” to continue operating one non-compliant unit until May 2023.

What’s interesting about the debate over regulation is that opposing sides aren’t really “pro-regulation” and “anti-.” It’s more a debate over the speed at which it should be implemented, what it should look like, and at what level.

And while many towns appreciate the ability to craft regulation to fit the specific needs of their community, that doesn’t mean state regulation has no place. Here’s how Marty Etter, chair of the Kirby Zoning Board, put it:

“We're a town of 400 plus people. We don't have the resources to set policy for the state.”

By “setting policy,” Marty’s referring to legal precedent that seems to favor property owners when it comes to questions about short-term rentals. Questions like, are short-term rentals “residential”? Or are they “commercial,” like motels?

Of course, state lawmakers could weigh in on this, too. This is something that came up during Rachel Hellman’s reporting.

“I think there really is a sense of wanting some higher-up, state-level looks at these things,” she says. “And it's hard to get a comprehensive look of what's happening without a state level kind of viewpoint.”

Julie Marks and the Vermont Short-Term Rental Alliance agree.

“I do believe that registration and data collection should be done at the state levels,” Julie says.

So does Emily Rosenbaum in Lamoille County.

“I think the state of Vermont should be doing this kind of survey of the entire state,” she says. “I think it's irresponsible to not do something about short-term rentals. And I think it's irresponsible to do something without really digging into what's going on in our communities."

Vermont lawmakers did pass one piece of short-term rental legislation way back in 2018. It was pretty minor. It required hosts to post contact info in their properties — their own phone number, along with info for the Departments of Health and Public Safety. And things like that.

Then, in 2021, lawmakers passed a bill that would have established a statewide rental registry. But Gov. Phil Scott vetoed it, citing a concern that the registry would disincentivize people from opening new units.

Now, there are new bills being discussed that would accomplish the same thing. And it’s possible short-term rental regulation makes it into a much larger housing bill that would address Act 250 and rules around development.

Meanwhile, in Kirby, the Planning Board is moving forward with conditional use. And at a February hearing, they reviewed the first two applications for new short-term rentals.

Marty Etter says the board eventually approved the applications, with these conditions:

“Two guests per bedroom. A 24/7 contact person for non-emergency issues. There was discussion about contribution to road maintenance. Fire and safety inspection. And renters will be informed of the permit conditions.”

Marty Etter, current Chair of the Kirby Planning Committee & Zoning Board. Marty and the Zoning Board recently approved the first two short-term rental applications since residents voted to add short-term rentals to the town’s conditional use review process.
Josh Crane
Vermont Public
Marty Etter, the current chair of the Kirby Planning Committee & Zoning Board. Marty and the Zoning Board recently approved the first two short-term rental applications since residents voted to add short-term rentals to the town’s conditional use review process.

But here’s the kicker. The owner of the two newly approved applications is Todd Glowa, the owner of the rental on Gorham Drive. And the location? Also Gorham Drive, right next to Todd’s first rental. Here’s neighbor Barrett Adams.

“So there's currently one short-term rental above us, and that's been a problem for years. And now the gentleman that owns it is putting two more full-time short-term rentals up there. It's going to triple the problems.”

Remember, Todd didn’t want to do a recorded interview. But he did give me permission to share this:

He told me that he understands why the Gorham Drive neighbors are upset about the loud noises and cars speeding on the road. He’s upset about these things too. And he’s taken steps over the years to try and dissuade this behavior, like installing cameras. He supports the new conditional use rules in Kirby because he thinks it will also help curb this behavior.

But others on Gorham Drive don’t view the new regulations the same way.

“The town of Kirby voted to make short-term rentals conditional use. I was very optimistic about the process,” says Susannah Keller. “But the conditions have no teeth, right? There is no real regulation there at all. And it was really disappointing.”

I asked the Gorham Drive neighbors if any of them would consider leaving because of the short-term rental presence on their road.

“I'm still holding onto hope,” says Kim Adams. “I've reached out to some local legislators. And I guess we haven't ever seriously discussed leaving, because I'm still hopeful."

“I've raised that discussion,” adds Kim’s husband, Barrett. “I don't enjoy it here as much anymore. I love the neighbors. I love my home, I love my property. But it's not the same anymore. It's having to listen to partying and snowmobiles, and had I known that this situation would be going on up there, I would not have bought this land.

“For me, it has really affected my quality of life. And I've even said, you know, I don't want to live here anymore. I want to go somewhere else."

Before we wrap up, let’s go back to Decatur Street in Burlington. And the apartment that got an all-pink Airbnb makeover after Django Koenig had to move out.

After Django’s old neighbors realized his unit had been converted into an Airbnb, they spoke out. One of the main concerns was whether the Airbnb was even legal under Burlington’s new short-term rental ordinance.

I reached out to Bill Ward, Burlington’s permitting & inspections director. He told me that a housing and zoning complaint on that property was filed in October of 2022. And that it’s still an open case.

“I know our city attorney has the address, and she's been in contact with their attorney,” he told me.

He also said that, to his knowledge, the unit is currently not compliant with Burlington’s rules for short-term rentals. And that he expects all non-compliance issues around the city to be resolved by May.

But Bill says it’s still not clear the management company did anything wrong as far as Django and Alix are concerned. Yes, their old apartment popped up on Airbnb a few weeks after they moved out. But, remember: The management company did do a bunch of electrical work and other renovations in the interim.

The management company did not respond to my requests for comment. Though in an email they sent to a neighbor on Decatur Street last fall, they did say they plan to return the unit to long-term housing in May of 2023. To comply with Burlington’s new rules.

Legal stuff aside, Django’s just sad he lost his former home.

“Me and my wife raised our puppy there. And we got married while we were living in that house. I just feel such a connection to it,” he says. “Because, yeah, we just grew to love each other there, and the community of Burlington on a deep level there.”


Thanks to Christiana Martin for the great question.

Josh Crane reported and produced this episode, and did the mix and sound design. Editing and additional production from the rest of the Brave Little State team: Angela Evancie, Myra Flynn and Mae Nagusky. Data guidance from April McCullum. Ty Gibbons composed our theme music; other music by Blue Dot Sessions.

Special thanks to Howard Weiss-Tisman, Liam Elder-Connors, Amy Ash Nixon, Madeleine Parkin and Jade Tinsley. And shout-out to Jacob Mushlin, who left a tip on the BLS hotline, which is how we found Django, and that very pink Airbnb on Decatur Street. If you have a tip, or just want to say hey, leave us a voicemail at 802-552-4880.

As always, our journalism is better when you’re a part of it:

Brave Little State is a production of Vermont Public, and a proud member of the NPR Network.

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Josh Crane is part of Vermont Public's Engagement Journalism team. He's the senior producer and managing editor for Brave Little State, a podcast based on questions about Vermont that have been asked and voted on by the audience, and runs Vermont Public's Sonic ID project.
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