Saturday, March 19, 2016

The "Affordable Housing" Excuse for Regulating VRs

When considering increasingly strict regulations on Vacation Rentals, local legislators are often faced with opposition from:

o   VR owners who have invested in the community ,

o   concerned businesses that depend on vacation rental activity for important parts of their income, and 

o   citizens who are concerned about possible damage to the local economy.

Opposition tends to trigger attempts to justify new regulations, and a favorite argument is that VRs cut down on the availability of "affordable housing" in the community.  Affordable housing is a legitimate concern for many communities, but one could argue that this argument is a poor excuse for new regulations on VRs.


o   the argument is often raised as a justification for new regulations, when proposed new regulations will do nothing at all to increase the availability of affordable housing.

o   legislating to provide affordable housing where needed is the job of the government, but passing regulations on VRs in order to solve housing problems,  effectively transfers that responsibility onto the backs of VR owners and the businesses that serve owners and their guests.  

o   VR owners can certainly make their own contributions to increase affordable housing, and some do, but it is not their job to do so.  Their investment in the community should not be degraded by such poorly conceived legislation, and local government should not be forcing them to subsidize responsibilities of the government.

o  families that have owned properties in a community for generations, and rent them out to tourists in order to support carrying costs of such properties, should not face bans or restrictions that prevent them from holding on to their properties.

o   properties that are attractive to tourists who visit a community are often properties in prime locations or with historic significance, and are not typically properties that would ever be considered "affordable" for those who need low cost housing.

o   many vacation rental owners and related businesses want to contribute to their host community, and already do so through donations to charities, donation of free nights of lodging for fundraising, donation of housing during community emergencies like Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy, and through involvement with local civic organizations.  The choice of how to support the local communities rightly belongs to the VR owner that is donating.

It is the job of local governments to deal with affordable housing costs if it truly is a local issue.  It is irresponsible of those government officials to transfer such responsibilities to a small subgroup of property owners at their expense.

"A rising tide lifts all boats".  Communities should be building their local economies to benefit all residents and taxpayers.  The fact that a community provides a highly desired lodging option is not a reason to decide to target VR owners to fund social welfare efforts.

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Thoughtful comments are welcome, whether you are in favor of vacation rentals or concerned about the impacts of VRs on your community. Comments that contain advertising, including ads for properties, will be deleted.