The Rockland City Council will consider whether to impose a moratorium on short-term rentals in homes not occupied by the property owners.

The proposed ordinance is still being drafted, according to Mayor Valli Geiger, but would impose a 180-day moratorium, which could be extended for an additional 180 days.

This temporary halt would allow the recently created Housing Task Force to "determine if short-term rentals are negatively impacting the availability of housing and if some additional regulations are in order for limiting the number of non-owner occupied short-term rentals," Geiger said.

The council will discuss the proposal at its agenda-setting meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 3, at City Hall. A preliminary vote on the moratorium would then be taken at the Monday, Jan. 8, meeting. If approved, a formal public hearing and final vote would be held in February.

The City Council voted Dec. 11 to create the Housing Task Force. The task force will have several sub-committees that will look at the possible re-use of the McLain School for housing, the use of upper floors of downtown buildings, regulations for tiny houses, and regulations for more dense residential development in the city.

The city has issued permits for 61 short-term rentals. Thirty-seven of those permitted properties are not owner-occupied residences.

The City Council adopted an ordinance in April 2016 that regulates short-term rentals. The ordinance was largely watered down from earlier versions that included mandatory inspections. The law that was approved requires property owners to receive permits from the Code Enforcement Office.

Property owners renting an entire house, an entire duplex in which the owner does not live, or three or more units of a multi-unit building must also receive approval from the Rockland Planning Board.

The Code Office initially sent out letters in the fall of 2016 to the owners of 71 properties that had advertised short-term rentals on online sites.

A review of the existing 61 permits shows that the greatest concentration is in the South End of Rockland. Twenty-two of the permitted locations are located south of Park Street and 14 are in the South End neighborhood bordered by Main Street to the west and Water Street to the north.

Geiger said, when the council debated short-term rental regulations in 2016, there was a promise that requiring permits would be the first step and the second step would be to look at whether limits were needed.

During the 15 months in which city officials debated the municipal ordinance, the concern was that an increase in whole houses or multiple units in an apartment building being rented short-term would reduce the amount of long-term rentals available for the local workforce.

Lack of affordable housing has repeatedly been cited by municipal leaders as one of the most pressing issues in the community.

There was also concern that having a larger share of the housing stock in a neighborhood used by people staying a few days at a time would harm the fabric of the community.