For many years, short-term rentals (STRs), a booked stay of 29 consecutive nights or fewer, have been a popular lodging choice for travelers in Europe and certain high volume tourist destinations in the United States. With the advent of technology-based online platforms that facilitate the marketing and booking of STRs, this market has rapidly expanded across the globe. According to Airbnb, one of the leaders in the home sharing industry, roughly 47,000 people stayed with Airbnb hosts during the summer of 2010. By the summer of 2015, that number had increased to nearly 17 million total guests. Airbnb currently touts more than three million listings in 65,000 cities across 191 countries. HomeAway, another home sharing company that includes VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and others, offers more than two million listings in 190 countries.
The City Council recently adopted regulations for STRs. The term “short-term rental" replaces “bed and breakfast facility" (B and B) in the Bellingham Municipal Code, and the new STR regulations replace those for B and Bs. These program goals guided the discussion on STR regulations: 1) balance the economic opportunity created by STRs with the need to maintain the City's housing supply and 2) protect the rights and safety of owners, guests and neighbors.
The City Council also voted to approve a moratorium on the siting, establishment and operation of any structures or uses relating to bed and breakfast facilities and the submission of any business license applications for these uses. This moratorium is in effect until the STR regulations take effect on May 5, 2019. The City Council will hold a public hearing on the moratorium on December 10, 2018 at 7:00 pm in the City Council Chambers.
City Council Meetings
December 10, 2018 - The City Council will hold a public hearing on the moratorium of B&Bs.
November 5, 2018 - The City Council approved Ordinance 2018-11-024 on third and final reading. The new short-term regulations take effect on May 5, 2019.
- Check-out the FAQs for additional information and explanations.
October 22, 2018 - The City Council considered final approval of the ordinance on third and final reading. The item was not approved on third and final reading; rather, it was referred to the November 5th City Council Committee of the Whole meeting to clarify how accessory dwelling units are treated.
October 8, 2018 - The City Council's Committee of the Whole discussed the draft short-term rental ordinance. City Council (5-1 vote) approved the draft ordinance on first and second reading.
September 10, 2018 - The City Council's Planning and Community Development Committee continued the consideration of the draft short-term rental ordinance.
August 20, 2018 - The City Council's Planning and Community Development Committee continued the consideration of the draft short-term rental ordinance.
July 9, 2018 - The City Council's Planning and Community Development Committee continued the consideration of the draft short-term rental ordinance.
June 18, 2018 - The City Council held a public hearing on the draft short-term rental ordinance.
Planning Commission Meetings
Click on the meeting dates below to search in the City Council / Planning Commission meeting calendar for meeting materials associated with each meeting. The March 1, 2018 meeting packet includes the draft ordinance.
On March 22, 2018, the Planning Commission voted 5-2 to forward a recommendation of approval to the City Council on the draft short-term rental ordinance, which will include minor modifications discussed at the meeting.
The Planning Commission held meetings on the following dates:
The public is invited to submit comments throughout the legislative process. Written comments may be submitted to: Planning and Community Development Department, Attn: Lisa Pool - 210 Lottie St. Bellingham, WA 98225 or via email at
*NOTE: Additional comments may have been received by the Mayor's office directly and placed in individual meeting packets, which can be found by searching for the City Council meeting date at www.cob.org/meetings.
Municipal Research Services Center article (November 2017):
12 Examples of Short-term Vacation Rental Regulations
Municipal Research Services Center article (February 2016):
Local Government Catching Up with Airbnb and Other Short-Term Transient Rental Businesses