Vacation vs. long-term home rentals

    How do they impact tourist communities?

    By Tessa Munson
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    Affordable housing is hard to come by in California, and it is getting even harder. With services like Airbnb, Homeaway and VRBO becoming increasingly common in popular tourist communities, affordable housing in those areas is quickly disappearing. Homeowners that once leased their extra properties out for long-term rentals are slowly converting their units into short-term vacation rentals.

    As it stands, most states, counties and cities do not have policies to protect long-term renters from being kicked out of their units once their leases end, so that the property owners can make the switch to short-term rentals.

    Some cities have implemented limits on how many days vacation home rentals are allowed to be occupied by short-term renters in a concentrated area. Other cities have implemented rules preventing homeowners from using their second properties as vacation rentals all-together. Rules like these help long-term renters from losing their places to live to vacation home rentals, they also help keep the short and long-term rental properties proportionate in numbers.

    The Los Angeles City Council has proposed an ordinance that prevents homeowners from leasing out their properties more than 120 days a year. In order to exceed that limit, the homeowner must complete an administrative process with the city for a permit. The permit is designed to notify neighbors and to review with the city enforcement agency that the property owner has no previous citations.

    Another city that is taking action is Mission Beach in San Diego. Enforced by July 2019, they will have limited short-term rentals to only one’s primary residence for up to six months out of the year. This rule limits homeowners from leasing several beach homes out for vacation rentals at the same time. According to vacation home management companies, the overwhelming majority of short-term rentals in the area are second homes or investor properties. Mission Beach’s limit helps level the playing field for short and long-term rental property availability.

    It is not just large metropolitan areas that are impacted by increased vacation home rental properties. Small, tourist towns with limited housing, like Lake Tahoe, are being hit particularly hard. Low-level employees at the ski resorts and small businesses around town are losing their places to live to short-term vacation rentals like Airbnb. Some Tahoe residents have decided to jump ship and leave the small mountain town altogether.

    Andrew James, resident of Lake Tahoe for over two years, has recently decided the housing hunt in the area is no longer worth his effort. Andrew lived in a quaint four-bedroom cabin that he and two housemates leased, until the owners decided they wanted to convert the property into a vacation rental home instead of the long-term rental it had been occupied as for years. The owners of the home did not know the laws in California regarding eviction notice timeliness, and tried to kick Andrew and his housemates out of the flat with only three days notice. This sideways attempt was made after the homeowners had agreed to sign another long-term lease with Andrew and his housemates, two months prior to the end of their lease. After consulting legal counsel, the homeowners realized that they could not evict their long-term renters as quickly as they had hoped. They did, however, have the legal right to force them out with proper timely notice, which they did.

    With their sudden eviction, Andrew and his housemates were forced to find new places to live. Andrew was lucky enough to have a friend with an extra room for him temporarily, even though she was reluctant to let him use it. During his stay with his friend, Andrew never stopped searching for a new place to live in Tahoe, so that he did not have to continue living in a place he knew he could not stay permanently. With more and more long-term housing units swallowed up by vacation home rentals, Andrew was not able to find a new place to stay, and was ultimately forced out of Lake Tahoe.

    Andrew James shares his worries, “My biggest concern with the affordable housing crisis happening in Lake Tahoe, is that there will eventually be a shortage of workers to keep these areas functioning properly. Businesses will close and the local economy will begin to slip. It’s already happening, simply because there are no places for the employees to live.”

    Andrew’s story is not unique. This phenomenon is happening all over the country, and in other parts of the world, as well. Unsurprisingly, the places that are hit the hardest are the locations with highly desirable features, less acreage and higher population counts. Cities like Waikiki on the island of Oahu in Hawaii are noticing the shift as well. New Orleans in Louisiana is another example of gentrification in the form of overwhelming vacation rentals.

    With the Monterey Peninsula growing in both size and population, what does this increase in short-term vacation home rentals mean for the community? How might California State University, Monterey Bay students and faculty be impacted by the rise of vacation home rentals in lieu of long-term home rentals?

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