Charleston’s new short-term rental rules have been on the books for several months, but they’re just starting to take effect. And while some early signs are encouraging, it’s far too early to measure their effectiveness with any precision.
Measuring effectiveness is critical. After all, that’s the main reason Charleston has new rules on short-term rentals. Previously, they were banned in most of the city, but officials didn’t have any straightforward way to enforce that ban.
The more we know about how the new rules are working, the better we can determine if any changes would make them stronger. So it would be inadvisable to make dramatic adjustments to the city’s ordinance at such an early stage of implementation and enforcement.
Last week City Council members Keith Waring and Robert Mitchell attached a handful of short-term rental amendments to the meeting agenda for Tuesday. Some are sensible enough; others would likely have problematic consequences.
But taken together, the amendments would significantly alter the short-term rental ordinance, expanding the number of homes that could be used as rentals and rendering mostly worthless any data the city has already gathered on the impact new rules are having.
Shortly after putting the amendments on the agenda, Mr. Waring asked that the matter be deferred for now. It’s a welcome request, and one that ought to be extended long enough to let city officials get a better handle on how the ordinance is working in its current form.
Mr. Waring also pointed out, however, that his and Mr. Mitchell’s amendments aren’t new suggestions. He said they were raised in March when City Council was discussing the proposed ordinance but weren’t included in it at the time.
Certainly, Mr. Waring’s and Mr. Mitchell’s proposals ought to be carefully and thoughtfully considered by council at the right time. But they should wait a few more months to push for a vote.
Charleston’s new short-term rental rules are far from arbitrary or rushed. They are the product of a year of public input and debate.
While it’s doubtful that city officials and the special Short Term Rental Task Force got every detail perfect, it’s important to let the ordinance be fully implemented and tested before making major adjustments.
And time is of the essence in a city with both a growing tourism industry and a housing affordability crisis.
Short-term rentals are a complicated issue for Charleston, and the city’s ordinance will probably need to be adjusted in one way or another at some point. But we ought to find out what, if any, problems arise before preemptively trying to fix them.