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As Wichita looks to regulate short-term rentals, some ask: What about long-term ones?

The percentage of renters in Wichita has increased over the past decade.
Celia Hack
The percentage of renters in Wichita has increased over the past decade.

A shooting at a Crown Heights AirBnb has led the city to consider short-term rental regulations. But some say long-term rentals in residential areas need stronger regulations, too. 

Following a shooting at a Crown Heights Airbnb last year, Wichita is considering new regulations for short-term rentals in the city.

The proposed policy would require short-term rental owners to get a license and have their property inspected every two years. The city is also considering limiting short-term rentals from being within 600 feet, or about one city block, of one another.

But some are asking: Why not do the same for long-term rentals in residential areas?

“What’s the chance you could expand this to long-term rentals in areas without homeowners associations, to protect their neighborhoods?” said Ann Fox, chair of the Metropolitan Area Planning committee, during a meeting about the new short-term rental regulations.

In an interview with KMUW, Fox said the committee she chairs oversees zoning issues and therefore does not have authority over long-term rentals. But she said she hopes others in the city look into the question.

City communications manager Megan Lovely wrote in an email to KMUW that the city is considering recurring inspections for short-term rentals because of their transitory nature.

“Short-term rentals are more similar in operation to hotels than long-term rental housing; and the consistent overturn of guests within predominantly residential neighborhoods would necessitate more oversight of the property,” Lovely wrote.

Some neighborhood leaders say they have seen an increase in long-term rental properties instead of owner-occupied homes in their neighborhoods. And unlike short-term rentals, they say there’s been no conversation about a policy to limit how close long-term rentals can be to each other.

“We’ve got some neighborhoods that are probably 70, 80% rentals,” said Lonnie Barnes, a Wichita landlord and a member of the Northeast Heights Neighborhood Association. “We never put a restriction on how many rentals we can have.”

The percentage of renters compared to homeowners in Wichita has crept up over the past decade, hitting a 10-year high in 2020 at 42%, according to the American Community Survey. In some zip codes, that percentage is far higher: 64% of people in the 67214 zip code are renters.

Owners of residential rental properties in Wichita aren’t required to get a city license or undergo a biennial inspection, Barnes said. Leasing residential property in Kansas doesn’t require a Kansas real estate license, according to Erik Wisner, the executive director of the Kansas Real Estate Commission.

All housing in the city of Wichita is required to follow the unified zoning code, which sets minimum standards of construction. The code doesn’t make a distinction between rental and nonrental properties.

Barnes said he wants the city to implement more regulations for long-term rentals in residential areas. He would like to see a landlord registry in which owners of rental properties have to provide their name and contact information to the city.

“When your biggest population and owner becomes landlords, there needs to be something to regulate not only short-term but long-term landlords as well,” Barnes said. “So we know who the accountable person is.”

Property owners can be found on Sedgwick County’s Property Tax and Appraisal website, but they are not required to list contact information. If a company owns the property, it is not required to list a person’s name.

Barnes said that a registry is necessary so that neighbors can contact landlords. He said his own home in Northeast Heights used to be surrounded by homeowners, but he now has renters adjacent to him. When tree or trash issues come up, he can’t find the property owner.

“I struggle just trying to get ahold of the property owners to the south of me,” Barnes said. “...They’re not local. It’s just a management company. I don’t care how you reach out to them or try to reach out to them. You get little response.”

Celia Hack is a general assignment reporter for KMUW. Before KMUW, she worked at The Wichita Beacon covering local government and as a freelancer for The Shawnee Mission Post and the Kansas Leadership Center’s The Journal. She is originally from Westwood, Kansas, but Wichita is her home now.