Dense residential housing in areas such as Douglas includes a mixture of more expensive homes occupied by long-term owners, rentals occupied by residents from various income categories and an increasing number of short-term rentals occupied by tourists. (Courtesy Photo / City and Borough of Juneau)

Dense residential housing in areas such as Douglas includes a mixture of more expensive homes occupied by long-term owners, rentals occupied by residents from various income categories and an increasing number of short-term rentals occupied by tourists. (Courtesy Photo / City and Borough of Juneau)

Debate continues on short-term rentals in Juneau

Mandatory registration of Airbnb and similar rentals favored by Assembly members.

JUNEAU — Many communities are trying a lot of approaches to cope with residential housing shortages caused by short-term rentals like Airbnb. Juneau’s leaders say it’s time to figure out what will work here — beginning with a mandatory registry so more is known about the impacts.

Drafting an ordinance requiring property owners to register their short-term rentals was unanimously approved by Juneau Assembly members meeting as the Committee of the Whole on Monday.

“This just asks for a draft ordinance, at which time we can ask about the many other questions involved,” said assembly member Maria Gladziszewski, who chairs the committee.

Among the other issues needing further exploration are what legally qualifies as a short-term rental, how to collect sales taxes from such rentals and the impacts for unusual situations with a large number of one-time visitors such as the Ironman race in August. But assembly members said getting data to base decisions on is a crucial initial step.

“This issue is really hot in the community right now and I think everybody agrees we need to know if this is an issue,” assembly member Carole Triem said. “I want to start on this as soon as possible so we can start collecting data as soon as possible. There’s a lot of communities that have done this, so we don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

The committee did take one other specific step Monday, voting 5-4 to have city administrators draft an ordinance that prohibits property owners who receive a $6,000 city allocation intended to create accessory apartments from using that space for short-term rentals.

“We don’t want to keep creating housing and then have this housing keep turning into short-term rentals,” assembly member Michelle Hale said, referring to the broader issue of new residential space being used for such rentals.

The city currently has about 8,400 single-family homes and 5,200 condo/multi-family units, Scott Ciambor, the city’s community development department planning manager, told assembly members. The number of registered short-term rentals has increased from 147 in 2018 to an estimated 170 this year — but those figures likely don’t reflect reality.

“Registration is by business name and difficult to determine if operator/owner has multiple units being used as short-term rentals,” Ciambor wrote in a report presented to the committee. Also, “registration is largely self-report, meaning there are likely higher numbers operating in the community. Monitoring for non-payers is complex and time-consuming with the numerous (online) platforms (4 main; more than 50 other sites) and trying to match business names and properties.”

The local housing market is also under strain from increased demand for employer-assisted housing, decreasing options for independent workers seeking rentals, changes in work-from-home opportunities, and the “high cost/availability of rentals impacting vulnerable, low-income households who are being displaced,” Ciambor noted.

Aside from causing housing shortages for residents, a primary issue is collecting sales taxes on short-term rentals. City Finance Manager Jeff Rogers said there currently is no agreement for Airbnb to do so on behalf of the city, as it does for other municipalities, and requiring the company to do so “is a mixed bag.”

“We would have even less information than we do currently” if that data is collected by Airbnb, he said. Also, that wouldn’t ensure collection of taxes from other short-term rental providers who don’t offer to collect on behalf of municipalities.

Third-party tax collection companies exist, but they charge commissions that could exceed the amount of revenue now uncollected by the city, Rogers said.

Assembly members also inquired about limiting short-term rentals to local property owners, thus preventing outside entities from profiting while reducing available residential housing. That problem was a factor in getting assembly member Wade Bryson to set aside his initial skepticism in the long-running debate about limits on short-term rentals.

“When it first began, I was extremely opposed to putting any limits on what owners can do with their property,” he said, “However, comments — including outside ownership — means we need to take a look at community impact.”

Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at

More in News

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Photo by Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska not included in feds’ proposed 5-year oil and gas program

The plan includes a historically low number of proposed sales

A copy of "People, Paths, and Places: The Frontier History of Moose Pass, Alaska" stands in sunlight in Soldotna, Alaska, on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Moose Pass to receive award for community historical effort

“People, Paths, and Places: The Frontier History of Moose Pass, Alaska” was a collaboration among community members

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board Member Debbie Cary speaks during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly on Tuesday, April 5, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. Cary also served on the borough’s reapportionment board. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
School board president receives award for meritorious service

Debbie Cary, of Ninilchik, is the Alaska Superintendent Association’s 2024 recipient of the Don MacKinnon Excellence in Education Award

Dr. Tara Riemer is seen in this provided photo. (Photo courtesy Alaska SeaLife Center)
SeaLife Center president resigns

Riemer worked with the center for 20 years

Voters fill out their ballots at the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai, Alaska, on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Election 2023: When, where to vote Tuesday

City council, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, the local school board races are all on the ballot

Dianne MacRae, Debbie Cary, Beverley Romanin and Kelley Cizek participate in a Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education candidate forum at Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna, Alaska, on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
School board candidates wrap up forum series

The forum was the eighth in a series hosted by the Clarion and KDLL ahead of the 2023 elections

Signs direct visitors at the City of Seward’s city hall annex on Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Electric sale referendums to be reconsidered next month

The two referendums aim to remove from the city’s Oct. 3 ballot two propositions related to the sale of the city’s electric utility

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Board of Fish proposals center on king salmon, east side setnet fishery

Many proposals describe changes to the Kenai River Late-Run King Salmon Management Plan

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
Senior Prom King and Queen Dennis Borbon and Lorraine Ashcraft are crowned at the 2023 High Roller Senior Prom at Aspen Creek Senior Living in Kenai, Alaska, on Friday, Sept. 22, 2023.
Senior prom crowns king and queen

In brainstorming options, the concept of putting on a prom turned some heads

Most Read