Monday, April 22, 2024

Leavenworth leaders advocate for short-term rental tax to address housing concerns

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OLYMPIA – Mayor Carl Florea and City Council Member Zeke Reister voiced their support of a short-term rental tax bill at a public hearing held by the House Committee on Local Government on Feb. 14.

“This is not an anti-short term rental bill, but it’s mitigation to offset some of those impacts,” said Florea.

SB 5334 would authorize local governments to impose a special excise tax on the furnishing of lodging of short-term rentals and use those revenues for affordable housing programs. 

Council Member Reister argued that the bill was an excellent strategy of using tourism to counteract its “major impact on eliminating housing in our community.”

“We have hundreds [of short-term rentals] around and inside Leavenworth, and many of those used to be permanent homes. It’d be helpful if those guests helped us replace those homes so we had a housing stock,” said Florea.

The bill also received support from Mayor Salim Nice of Mercer Island and Expedia Group, the parent company of VRBO.

“We see in some cases jurisdictions outright ban short-term rentals, so we’d rather see this as a release valve for communities,” said Brent Ludeman, a lobbyist for Expedia Group. 

Those in opposition to the bill included representatives from Greater Seattle Hosts Group and Chamber of Progress, as well as a Seattle host. Those in opposition feared that the bill would harm those who would be unable to afford where they live without the supplemental income from short-term renting.

“We don’t think it gets at the core issue of affordable housing, which is mainly about how many more units are being created,” said Ken Ploeger, of the Greater Seattle Hosts Group.

One group supported the bill but wanted to see amendments made that clarified the use of the excise tax before it was passed.

After holding public hearings, the committee may discuss its merits, potential amendments, and whether to recommend it for further consideration by the full House of Representatives. The original bill was passed through the Senate in 2023 but did not pass through the House. The bill was reintroduced this year by the Senate.


Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or taylor@ward.media

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