The logic of the city going after short-term rental owners is baffling, not from a tourism standpoint, but from a preservation standpoint. I am surprised to see that the preservation community is supportive.
As a preservationist, I know that short-term rentals benefit the cause of preservation. These rentals, specifically owner-occupied rentals, give property owners the wherewithal to repair and maintain their properties. The investment in these neighborhoods grows.
This is not "commercial incursion." It is residential use, the same as long-term rentals and private guests. The Cannonborough and Elliotborough neighborhoods are successfully allowing short-term rentals and have enjoyed a quick turn-around.
As noted by the Short Term Regulation Advocacy group, "About 59 percent of STR owners say they use rental income to make improvements and upgrades to their home." Of course, people wouldn't rent it if not properly maintained.
Many short-term visitors do not bring a vehicle, or they bring only one. This is what a guest in your home would bring. As for noise, the owner is on site or in a house nearby and can monitor this. Plus, we have noise ordinances.
My husband and I value the diversity of our neighborhood. Short-term rentals can help my elderly neighbors, who predate the enormous hikes in property taxes and flood insurance, pay these costs while staying in their homes.
The money from short-term rentals, unlike long-term rentals, does not go to a nameless investor in another town. It goes to someone living in the neighborhood. These people care about their neighborhood, and are improving it, rather than allowing buildings to become run-down or vacant. Short term rentals help slow gentrification.
To deny short-term rentals is to say, in essence: Don't come to the peninsula without half a million dollars. It is hard to buy a home on the peninsula for under $300,000, and with taxes, insurance and necessary repairs and maintenance, you are right around $500,000.
You can expect cash investors to try to scoop up property for long-term rentals. These are the rentals that are not well-maintained, that are noisy, that bring six cars and loud renters. Most of the short-term rentals are private rooms and suites.
Airbnb, which helps people find vacation accommodations, reports that 87 percent of its hosts are renting out their primary residences, 62 percent say that hosting guests helps them afford to remain in their homes, and nearly half had household incomes at or below their city's average. This issue is about who we want to be as a city: a big country club or a dynamic place.
At the 2012 U.S. Conference of Mayors, which Mayor Joe Riley attended, a resolution to allow short-term rentals passed unanimously. Among other things, it states that "the U.S. Conference of Mayors urges support for economic development opportunities through the visitors industry by encouraging regulations of the short-term rental industry that:
1) establish a reliable way for the municipality to identify and contact the short-term rental owner;
2) make the tax collection and remittance obligations clear to the short-term rental owner; and
3) treat short-term rental tenants the same as long-term rental tenants. Regulations that accomplish all three can achieve a high level of compliance, and are highly effective."
This document also states that, "Using a property as a STR does not change its status from residential to commercial. Regulations should clarify the definition of residential use to include short-term rentals." Let's hope the mayor is not changing his tune.
I hope the city will realize that its heavy-handed response to these rentals is not in the best interest of our community. The preservation of our neighborhoods will be negatively impacted if they continue their current crusade against invested citizens.
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