Shooting at Scottsdale Airbnb motivates short-term rental opponents – The Arizona Republic

A shooting in Scottsdale at a short-term rental earlier this month has residents and elected officials doubling down on their opposition to Airbnb-style vacation rentals.
Mary Healey, who lives next door to where the shooting occurred, said the neighborhood’s short-term rentals are out of hand. There is often loud partying at the property, she said, but the shooting was a next-level disruption.
“That bullet could have been through the garage, and through my bedroom, and in my head,” she said. “It’s pretty scary.”
The non-fatal shooting happened near McDowell Road and North Hayden Road at 4 a.m. on Sept. 9. The victim was shot three times, according to the Scottsdale Police Department. Police later arrested two people in connection with the shooting.
Opposition to Airbnbs and other short-term rentals was already significant in Scottsdale and other parts of the Valley. Some residents and elected officials say they make neighborhoods less safe and eat up the city’s desperately-needed housing supply.
A shooting has only added fuel to the fire as community leaders gear up to consider new local restrictions on short-term rentals. 
In a written statement provided to The Republic, Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega called the shooting “a tragic illustration of the problems that vacation rental homes are bringing to our neighborhoods,” adding that “the sense of safety in this neighborhood is shattered.”
A representative for Airbnb said the property listing has been deactivated while the company investigates.
Scottsdale has seen an explosion of Airbnbs, Vrbos and other short-term rental listings in recent years. The New York Times recently dubbed the city the “bachelorette-party capital of the West,” in part because of the popularity of short-term rental homes where groups of friends can congregate.
Loud parties are a regular complaint to police, but concerns about safety are not uncommon. Valley short-term rentals have been host to several shootings and other serious crimes, including a 2020 incident where a teenager was shot during a house party.
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Public safety concerns related to short-term rentals are popping up across the country. A 2021 study by Northeastern University found that higher rates of short-term rental listings in Boston neighborhoods were linked to increased crime. That’s likely because converting housing units into short-term rentals “undermines a neighborhood’s social organization” and its natural ability to “counteract and discourage crime,” the study said.
Between July 1, 2021, and June 1, 2022, Scottsdale police were called to short-term rentals almost 800 times, according to city data. And in the first six months of this year, roughly half of the nuisance party police service calls citywide were to short-term rentals. A party might be considered a nuisance for many reasons, according to Scottsdale Police, including underage drinking, litter, excessive noise or traffic, public drunkenness or fights.
In 2021, Scottsdale created a short-term rental working group to address the challenges created by the properties. The city has since enacted new rules based on recommendations from the group, including a $1,000 penalty for short-term rental owners who fail to respond within one hour to an emergency on their property when contacted by police.
The Scottsdale Police Department is also creating a short-term rental police squad to respond to calls, a spokesperson said.
Many public officials and opponents of short-term rental housing in Arizona say short-term rental safety issues, as well as concerns of depleting housing stock and driving up rent costs for residents, stem in part from a 2016 state law that prohibits cities and towns from banning short-term rentals.
“This hands-off, anything goes attitude, you wind up with shootings,” said Bill Hunter, a Paradise Valley resident and co-founder of Neighbors Not Nightmares, a community group that advocates against short-term rentals.
While cities still cannot prohibit short-term rentals, a new state law that takes effect this month will give municipalities more leeway to crack down on nuisance properties. The law will allow cities and towns to require short-term rental owners to obtain a license from the municipality. It will also enable municipalities to suspend the licenses of properties that violate local or state law three times in one year.
Ortega said the Scottsdale City Council is planning on reviewing a draft ordinance for a local license requirement on Sept. 20.
As Arizona grapples with an affordable housing crisis, housing advocates worry that vacation rentals are gobbling up homes and depleting the housing stock available for full-time residents.
The state needs 270,000 additional homes to tackle its housing crisis, according to the Arizona Department of Housing. If short-term rentals were available for residents, it would chip away at the housing shortage. There are almost 6,000 active Airbnb and Vrbo listings in Scottsdale alone, according to AirDNA, a company that tracks short-term rental data. Most of those listings are for entire homes, not single rooms.
In a recent report, the Arizona Housing Coalition said cities’ inability to restrict short-term rentals is one of several barriers to affordable housing in the state, particularly in high-tourism areas like Sedona, Flagstaff and Scottsdale. Former Sedona City Manager Justin Clifton told The Arizona Republic in 2019 that short-term rentals accounted for 20% of the city’s entire housing stock.
The Arizona Housing Coalition report highlights steps other communities have taken to balance short-term rentals with preserving their affordable housing: Chicago imposed a tax surcharge for short-term rentals that funds a local housing trust fund and Vail, Colorado, created a program that incentivizes residents to put a restriction into their home’s deed so that only full-time residents can buy or rent it.
Kate Bauer, co-founder of the Arizona Neighborhood Alliance, said constructing more housing won’t solve Arizona’s housing shortage until the short-term rental market is under control. 
“If you don’t fix this problem, you’re never going to fix the housing problem,” Bauer said. “You can’t keep building what will essentially be investments for people and not homes for people.”
Coverage of housing insecurity on and in The Arizona Republic is supported by a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation.
Juliette Rihl covers housing insecurity and homelessness for The Arizona Republic. You can contact her via email at or on Twitter @JulietteRihl.


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