Home-sharing could ease Rexburg's growing pains

Home-sharing could ease Rexburg's growing pains

by
Lindsay Russell Dexter
October 16, 2016
Lindsay Russell Dexter
October 16, 2016

The Rexburg City Council has delayed a decision as to whether its residents can make money on their own property by offering vacation and short-term rentals through services such as Airbnb. The council asked the city’s planning and zoning commission to provide clearer definitions of the terms “bed and breakfast” and “boarding house.” The council’s request comes shortly after the planning and zoning board asked the city council for guidance on the same definitions, saying planners could not rule on conditional-use permits due to inadequate definitions within the law.

As long as Rexburg city officials continue to pass the issue back and forth, Rexburg residents may decide  to sit and wait, unsure if the government will ultimately cut off the revenue they earn from short-term rentals. Businesses such as Airbnb are a natural response to a market in need. Rexburg’s median household income is about $26,400 annually.It’s not just the money, though. Rexburg residents say they also enjoy the cultural experience from having visitors stay with them from all over the country and the world.

A benefit to private homeowners offering short-term rental space is that it increases lodging space via existing resources. This will be desirable, not only to the benefit of property owners, but to those who will attend Brigham Young University-Idaho and those who visit the city.  

This week, Brigham Young University-Idaho released its fall statistics. The university shows total campus enrollment for 2016 has increased 2.4 percent over last fall. This year’s enrollment totals 17,980 students, which makes up than half of Rexburg’s estimated total population of 27,663 in 2015.  

The campus has room to grow to 23,000 students, but that doesn't include all of the parents and family members who visit during events. In public testimony from Rexburg residents, it is clear that hotels quickly fill up and visitors must stay in nearby towns, even as far away as Idaho Falls.

What would happen if the the university continues to grow as much as it has each year? A simple answer to the need for more short-term lodging options is allowing residential property owners to continue offering guest rooms and other accommodations on a temporary basis.  

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