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At the heart of the short-term vacation rental issue in San Diego, there is a tension between investors who want to buy and rent homes to make a profit and regular families who want to be able to afford and live in homes within neighborhoods that meet real quality-of-life standards.
If you’re the sort of individual or LLC that believes your right to make a profit takes precedence over any claim that could be made by impacted communities, neighborhoods or families, then nothing I say here will matter to you. I’m never going to convince you that mitigating the potential harm of your commercial activities should outweigh your ability to profit.
But if you are like the vast majority of my fellow San Diegans who own or rent one home – and who hold down a job here while raising children – then I’m asking you to join me Tuesday in supporting Councilwoman Barbara Bry’s short-term vacation rental policy proposal, which allows homeowners to continue renting out their homes to earn money.
When they began nearly 10 years ago, web platforms like Airbnb were marketed as a way for homeowners to easily be matched with short-term renters, who would rent all or part of their primary residence while they were away or still onsite. Acknowledging the positives of short-term vacation rentals, Bry’s proposal allows for homeowners to rent their primary residence as a whole-house rental while they’re away for a maximum of 90 days a year, for fewer than 30 days at a time. It also allows for home-sharing, or the short-term rental of some part of the house, like a room, granny flat or other accessory dwelling unit, without limit, while the owner remains onsite.
What it prohibits is offsite investors renting out homes where they don’t actually live, year-round. This is a disturbingly common practice that has negative consequences on our communities.
The key difference between a short-term rental operated by a resident-homeowner versus a short-term rental operated by an offsite investor is accountability. If my husband and I rented out our home for a few days, and while we were away our short-term tenants turned our home into one of the “party houses” that we’ve all heard so much about, then we’d likely return home to our justifiably angry neighbors. Offsite investors, on the other hand, just don’t need to care as much. They’re not actually neighbors in a neighborhood. They aren’t invested in the care of the community, their children don’t go to school with the neighbors’ children, they don’t have to walk their dogs past their neighbors’ houses. Some might care, but since they don’t need to, many won’t, and we’ve seen that happen in neighborhoods across San Diego.
Unregulated proliferation of whole-house short-term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods will continue to diminish the quality of life for those trying to raise their families in those neighborhoods. Furthermore, these short-term rental properties take family homes off the market, leaving prospective homebuyers or long-term renters to struggle with the challenges of our well-documented housing shortage. Simultaneously, they inflate the cost of rent and the values of properties to such an extent that working San Diegans are stretched thin and cannot save toward or afford to buy their own home.
Unchecked short-term rentals will only serve to exacerbate our severe housing crisis, which has already received national media attention. While we can acknowledge that tourism is of great importance to the San Diego economy, policies (or the lack thereof) that cause local San Diegans to be displaced from residential neighborhoods by tourists is not an acceptable tradeoff.
With so many outsize negative impacts, it is incumbent on our policymakers to find a fair solution for homeowners and not investors. I strongly believe that Bry’s proposal is the solution we’re looking for to ensure our neighborhoods do not become poached by outside investors taking valuable housing stock off the market and away from San Diegans.
Carol Kim is political director of the San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.