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Des Moines board approves proposed changes to short-term rental rules


A city board on Thursday approved proposed changes to Des Moines’ short-term rental regulations, but not until after hearing from residents about nuisance properties in their neighborhoods.

“Renters park in front of our properties, causing problems with garbage pickup and city snow removal,” said resident Carlisle Hamilton, who told the board that three short-term rental houses are located in her west-side neighborhood. “Our guests have nowhere to park when they visit us. Any service such as appliance delivery [has trouble] getting to our house because of the excess of renters’ vehicles parked on our street.”

Hamilton asked the board to require owners to live in residences with short-term rentals and that a cap be placed on the number of houses in a neighborhood that can offer short-term rentals.
“Believe me, this does affect property values,” Hamilton said. “I have not met anyone who says ‘Great, I want to buy a house right next to [an Airbnb because it] has people arriving late at night and ring my doorbell because they think my house is the rental.’”

Four other people also spoke against the proposal during a Des Moines Plan and Zoning Commission public hearing. Several short-term rental operators spoke in favor of the proposed changes.

Before a new zoning code went into effect in December, Des Moines didn’t allow short-term rentals of houses, apartments or condos. While the new code allows the rentals, it caps the number of days an owner can rent his or her property at 120 annually, unless the owner lives on-site. Feedback from current short-term rental operators said the new rules were too restrictive and likely would put them out of business.  

Changes to the section of the code that addresses short-term rentals eliminates the residency requirement and allow rentals to occur 365 days a year. 

Officials have estimated that Des Moines has at least 300 short-term rentals in the city. Under the new code, all short-term rentals must acquire rental certificates and be approved by the city’s board of adjustment. Short-term rentals that don’t have certificates are operating illegally, city officials said.

If the board of adjustment believes too many short-term rentals are operating in a neighborhood, it can turn down additional requests, city officials said Thursday.

The Plan and Zoning Commission approved the proposed changes to the zoning code. The City Council is expected to hold a public hearing on the proposed changes at its Feb. 10 meeting.

Related article: Neighborhood leader: Des Moines’ proposed short-term rental rules not ‘a one-size fits all’ solution

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