Short-term rentals, and the impact on neighborhoods and housing stock, have long been a divisive issue in the Lake Tahoe Basin.
That’s likely to continue with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency proposal for deed restrictions limiting new construction of short-term rentals and unoccupied second homes. The aim of the deed restrictions is to open up more housing for locals, and to cut back on complaints associated with short-term rentals, often reserved on websites like Airbnb and VRBO.
“We local residents are being treated like trash,” El Dorado County resident Janet McDougall said during public comment at a Local Government Committee meeting on the issue. McDougall said most of her neighborhood now consists of vacation rentals and unoccupied second homes.
“I feel very unsafe in my neighborhood,” she continued. “I’m stuck in a neighborhood surrounded by people who trample all over my property rights.”
The deed restrictions are being considered as a measure to stabilize the housing supply for local residents, as the agency’s staff proposed deed restrictions on allocations for new construction, curtailing new allocations for short-term rentals and possibly unoccupied second homes. The TRPA has 1,820 allocations to be issued between now and 2033. Since 2012, 13 percent of allocations have been used as short-term rentals.
A short-term rental, as defined by staff, is a home rented out for stays of 30 days or less and is not occupied by either the owner or another resident for 182 days or more of each year. An unoccupied second home is defined as a home that is not occupied by either the owner or another local resident for 182 days or more out of each year.
Area real estate agents say deed restrictions infringe on the rights of property owners, while doing little to help solve the housing problem.
“The Realtors have concerns that the deed restrictions will negatively impact properties,” Diane Brown, public policy chair for Incline Village Realtors, told the committee. “To require an owner to be present a specific number of days seems at the most, unenforceable, it would be very tedious and difficult to prove, and it would be, in our opinion, a violation of property rights … please let the local jurisdictions and governments work on the local housing issues.”
In South Lake Tahoe, Measure T, a voter-approved ban on most vacation home rentals in the city, was passed last November, but is now facing litigation.
The housing issues facing Lake Tahoe communities vary across the region.
The North Shore has a housing shortage of more than 12,000 units, according to a TRPA staff report, while in South Shore a reported 250 school-aged children are living in motels.
Of the roughly 47,000 total units in the basin, according to the report, 58% are secondary residences, and of those, roughly 21,000 sit vacant most of the year. And about 6,000 are short-term rentals.
“We’ve been studying the issue for probably three years and it’s become so hyper polarized,” John Falk, Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors government affairs director, told the Sierra Sun. “It’s such a hot topic right now that unfortunately it’s overshadowing the great work (the board of Realtors) have been doing for decades to promote affordable housing and enough availability.”
“The (short-term rental) issue has become the hot topic, and in my opinion, the scapegoat for the lack of affordability and accessibility to housing regionally … (short-term rentals) are not the problem nor will they be the solution to the housing availability and affordability crisis in our region.”
Falk said the matter has taken time away from coming up with realistic solutions to the housing problem in the Truckee-Tahoe area.
“We need to set aside this whole rancorous debate over (short-term rentals) so we can get to the heavy lifting of providing sufficient affordable housing for our people that live and work up here,” he said. “That’s the overarching issue that’s getting hurt by the hyper focus on (short-term rentals). We’ve got to solve the bigger issue, and there are ways to do it without infringing on the property rights of owners.”
IMPACT ON TOT REVENUE?
Due to different issues facing communities around Tahoe, Falk contended that the housing problem should be left to local governments.
“Leave it in the hands of local jurisdictions to do what is right and what they feel is best for their unique challenges and opportunities, because frankly, the (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) covers too wide an area,” said Falk.
“It’s not only ill-conceived and ill-advised to try to regulate (short-term rentals), we think it’s further than that. (There are) unintended consequences both to local government in terms of direct revenue through (the Transient Occupancy Tax) and indirect revenue through sales tax and other payments.”
North Tahoe pulled in more than $10.5 million in total Transient Occupancy Tax revenues during the 2017-18 fiscal year, according housing council’s report. The proposed deed restrictions would affect newly constructed units.
Falk said the proposed deed restrictions are a violation of homeowners’ rights, and would ultimately, adversely affect local economies around the basin.
“The three bundles of rights that we believe come with private property ownership of a residential nature is the ability to live in it, to rent it, or to sell it,” said Falk. “And that rental is not restricted to long term and (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency) itself has recognized that.”
The Local Government Committee moved to continue with the matter, and will pick it up again during its April 24 meeting. The meeting will go from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will be held at the Tahoe Regional Planning building in Stateline.