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State College Borough Council passes new restrictions on short-term rentals

Yard signs line the State College Municipal Building on Election Day 2021
Emily Reddy
Borough council members extensively deliberated the new ordinance before unanimously passing it. The council heard from over a dozen concerned citizens, with many saying the activity cap was too harsh or too lenient.

On Monday night, the State College Borough Council unanimously passed an ordinance that adds new regulations on short-term rentals, like Airbnbs.

The number of days owners could use their property as a short-term rental was contentious during public comment. State College resident Lizzie Parra, who manages short-term rental properties, said the originally proposed 60-day cap was too harsh.

“We believe that if Airbnbs are safe and if they are maintained well, if they’re managed well, and if they’re not a nuisance, that really, the cap should be more of a penalty if you’re not following along with those things,” Parra said.

Jennifer Baka also lives in State College. She said she’s had a poor experience living next to a short-term rental and would prefer a shorter rental cap.

“I do have serious safety concerns as a mother of two young children under five living next to a de facto hotel and would urge the council to please stop that,” Baka said.

The council decided on a rental cap of 120 days a year.

Another concern discussed at the meeting was how short-term rental properties impact affordable housing in the borough. Devin Altman has lived in State College for about five years. She said renting out her basement has helped her afford to live in the borough.

“My partner and I feel very fortunate to be able to responsibly rent out this area of our home in order to afford our living expenses. As you are well aware, affordable housing is limited in the Centre region, and we have worked hard and been creative to afford to live here,” Altman said.

State College resident David Geiser said he is worried that short-term rentals could increase the value of homes and further limit the borough’s affordable housing options.

“There’s a lot of money motivating this short-term rental situation. And a lot of it’s coming from outside of State College. And it’s going to increase the value of homes probably, which on the one hand is a good thing, but it also excludes people,” Geiser said.

Another addition to short-term rental regulations says that if owners make short-term renters sign a lease, they must submit a copy of it to the borough.

Other key changes include increasing the short-term rental license and renewal fee from $175 to $300, requiring renters to maintain guest activity logs, providing one off-street parking spot per bedroom rented, capping the number of bedrooms rented to nine and requiring rental property owners to live at the residence for eight months during the year.